Chicago Auto Show Wrap Up

Now that the 2012 Chicago Show is over I can give my humble thoughts and opinions on this after visiting twice in the last week. I got two very different points of view since I first attended with my mother and then went with a childhood friend. I can honestly say in over 25 years of attending the show (since I was in elementary school), this was one of the best laid out shows. The representatives from each car maker were as friendly as ever, no pressure (in the past you got a few people that were pushing certain cars), this year pure questions and answers. As a wonderful Lincoln employee told me, it was about making people “informative about their cars”, I thought that was perfect since the auto show isn’t about sales, its about preparing you to buy for us car buffs just to keep us up to speed with what is out there.

I also come from an automotive family, my father was a longtime Chicago Transit Authority diesel mechanic and he always had a car he was working on in the garage, so I grew up with cars and in spitting distance of the long gone Raceway Park race track in Calumet Park.

With  said I’ve owned 8 cars in my life, one Nissan, three Mazdas, three Chevrolets and a Toyota. My current car is a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu, great car, good on gas, excellent on the highway, comfy, just an all around complete car.

But I must admit Hyundai is doing things no other car maker is doing in making luxury affordable and bringing top notch cars to the market place with a vehicle for every that fits most peoples’ needs, wants and desires. The most impressive are the Genesis, Equus & Azera,  I kept saying” but its  Hyundai”,  this is one innovative car company making the competition do some homework (and keeping the luxury branks up at night), these are great cars at half the money of European competition.

One thing that there is no question is that the Ford F150 is the best pick up truck period, even at a higher price point, the options, the history, quality & innovation, not to mention comfort, durability and options. The Ram (formally known as Dodge Trucks), is great for the money, Chevrolet/GMC needs to do some extensive design and deciding on dollars for in this day and age, money and gas do not go as far as they used too, people have to make hard decisions everyday and the purchase of a vehicle is right up at the top.

Now the new Chevrolet Malibu is a smart car, good design, takes a lot of ques from the Camaro and even has a “soft hybrid” which turns even energy from braking to the engine and uses a electric engine along with the gas engine, seems like a “best of both worldsa, for those of us not ready to commit to full hybrid power, plus more reasonable in price.

Speaking of Chevrolet, they still make the old school muscle horsepower with the new Camaro ZL1 and power never looked so good as the 60th anniversary Corvette, I hope I look that good when I'm 60 years old.

Ford really had the best layout, the most cars, innovative design, but muscle power too (Mustangs are running faster and looking better than ever), eco friendly (with the Focus in its various styles and even smaller Fiesta), and more trucks than a country music fest, (the formally mentioned F 150), the blue oval was literally hitting on all cylinders.

Ford’s luxury division Lincoln, is spending money (absolutely beautifully designed section), and trying hard but still needs to show its not just a fancy Ford (see Cadillac and how they separated themselves from Chevy), but they are headed in the right direction. Although the cars need new names, the MKZ, MKS & MKT are confusing, I loved that the entry level car was originally named the Zephyr, had that nice classic name that fit’s the platform and aura a domestic luxury car should seek.

Buick had a good display and really outgoing & friendly representatives who not only knew their products but how some of their technology was also used in other General Motors products. I had just become familiar with the “soft hybrid technology” at the Chevrolet display minutes prior to visiting Buick and they could tell me the differences and origins of that at Buick. Its truly intelligent luxury and looking to not just be an old mans car anymore. Some of their vehicles have to origins in Europe as Opels and a few of the first year models are made in Europe but that technology is coming home to the US and going forward those cares will be made in the Detroit, nice to the see “The Motor City” is making a comeback.

Nissan was put in a back corner and was almost an after thought (full disclosure my first car was a 1986 Nissan 200SX), but they had a legit supercar sitting in the middle of their exhibit. Its called the GT-R and it rivals any Porsche, Ferrari and even the Chevrolet Corvette and is around the Corvette’s price point but can run on any race track (road or oval), yet can be driven to work every day.  Nissan prides themselves on performance on a practical basis.

I had a 2011 Nissan Murano SUV as a rental for two weeks late last year as my car was being repaired from an accident. I fell in love with that SUV, it had power and not just low end torque but sports cars car speed and a nice muscle car growl to go along with it but had the room for me to load a six foot patio box in it one night and a new BBQ smoker later that week. I went to three different big box home improvment retailers in one week loading up that Murano with stuff and looked good doing it I may add.

Nissan also has the Leaf, the first mass produced 100% electric car, talk about an automotive game changer, its literally the future, just needs time to prove its worth and make it more affordable.

As for Toyota & Honda their last few years have been tough, between previously unheard of reliability issues and the production delays from several incidents back in Japan. They need more value, just can’t ride on their name and past productivity anymore, especially at premium price, my mother and I (and she‘s a die hard Toyota customer), were surprised at the high price point of their vehicles. The auto world is fickle and people are having hard financial times. People will not pay a premium price for the best vehicles much less those that have had recall and safety issues in recent years. See domestic automakers 10-30 years ago.

GMC had a spacious section near the back of the show, their line of luxury SUVs and trucks, is just enough to know not its not a Chevy but $ 40,000- $ 60,000 for their large SUVs seems so last decade, though the new Acadia midsize SUV is refined and the smaller Terrain is also improved and give the imports a run for the money, in all wheel drive no less.

Cadillac is an American success story one of ingenuity, performance, luxury all in one place. The Germans should be nervous because these cars are world beaters, they have run the track at Nuremburg in record time, they run the on the Rolex racing circuit and look good doing it. There are no longer just funeral cars or the official car of AARP members, they are high quality, high performance luxury cars coming out of Michigan. Outside of the Chevrolet Volt, no other vehicles show the renaissance of GM and the investment of the government better.

Kia is Hyundai’s younger sibling that it keeping on the heels of its older & more successful sibling, they had a nice set up showing their full line up of cars Toyota, Honda & Nissan should take note and not take them for granted, for they have cars in that lower price point that people really want right now and these are quality cars not the little econoboxes we had to settle for 10-15-20 years ago.

I can’t go without mentioning the vast amount of space that Chrysler had with their two test tracks (with really long lines Wednesday & Thursday night), and real estate dedicated to their Ram truck brands (no one makes bigger and faster trucks than they do plus they look great and keeping the Ford F150 honest), and then they had a special section to the high performance SRT top line of muscle cars and SUV (Jeep Grand Cherokee), and yes Jeep had their own section. This is another pull up from your bootstraps success story. Despite multiple owners, government bailout (the second one, first one was 30 years ago), this company should be called Phoenix because they came up from the ashes and truly shows what why most of us fell in love with cars to begin with.

Well this year’s show was really well laid out, really reaching out to buyers, good  use of space, good ideas, not taking customers for granted anymore and having the local food trucks in parking lot B Thursday night was a nice dinner alternative. As well as the family food specials from Connie’s pizza, can’t wait until next year’s show.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul grad (LA&S '99), and know and love Chicago. Writing is my passion, what I write is what I feel and there is no half steppin' with my work. I simply want to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions. And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say.

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