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Bellwether of better times ahead? Show attendance up from 2007

November 16, 2010
100th Chicago Auto Show

The nation’s economic forecast is gray; the national sentiment indicates this country is on the verge of a recession. Or several months into a recession.

But for 10 cold days this month, the public streamed to McCormick Place for the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, spinning the turnstiles slightly more than they did in 2007. The show succeeded in bringing new vehicles, new displays and new attractions to its audience. By one count, the floor included 14 world introductions, 18 concept vehicles and prototypes, and 34 all-new production vehicles.

The 2008 show also marked the event’s 100th edition—the world’s first auto show to reach the centennial mark. A special display presented vintage vehicles and photographs and artifacts of Chicago Auto Shows over the years. At the first edition—March 23-30, 1901—exhibits in the center of the arena of the Coliseum (Wabash Street at 14th Street) were surrounded by a wooden track to demonstrate the new "horseless carriages" in motion.

Notable events included a number of special presentations geared to women on Women’s Day, Feb. 12, when women admission was half price; the opportunity to speak to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq in real time, via video conferencing technology provided by the Freedom Calls Foundation, Feb. 16 at the Dodge display; and even a Valentine’s Day wedding on Feb. 14, also in the Dodge display.

‘Best of Show’ winners
Consumer voters identified their Chicago Auto Show favorites in five categories, in the show’s third annual Best of Show balloting.

Winners in the contest’s five categories were:

  • Best All-New Production Vehicle: Dodge Challenger (30% of vote)
  • Best Concept Vehicle: Cadillac CTS Coupe (19% of vote)
  • Best Chicago Auto Show World Introduction: Dodge Challenger (56% of vote)
  • Best Exhibit: Chevrolet (25% of vote)
  • Vehicle I’d most like to have in my driveway: Chevrolet Camaro Bumblebee (8% of vote)

Nine finalists in four categories were selected by a panel of elite automotive journalists. The fifth category, "Vehicle I’d Most Like to Have in My Driveway," allowed voters to choose from any vehicle on the show floor for their write-in pick.

According to the results, nearly one-third of the voters considered the Dodge Challenger the Best All-New Production Vehicle on display at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. It was followed by the Shelby GT500KR with 18 percent of the vote. Just two years ago, the Challenger won the Best Concept category in the inaugural Best of Show voting, making it a great example of how quickly concepts can move to production.

In the Best of Show’s tightest race, 4 percentage points separated the top four finishers in "Vehicle I’d most like to have in my driveway." The Chevrolet Camaro Bumblebee gathered 8 percent of the vote, followed closely by the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and Nissan GT-R. Proving that star power still counts, the yellow and black Camaro Bumblebee concept car was featured in the live-action-adventure film, "Transformers."

Dodge Challenger easily took Best Chicago Auto Show World Introduction. The GMC Denali XT concept hybrid pickup truck finished second in voting.

Gathering 19 percent of the vote, the angular Cadillac CTS Coupe squeaked out a victory as the Best Concept Car of the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. The sporty Dodge Zeo finished a close second with 16 percent of the vote.

Chevrolet wrested the crown of Best Exhibit away from Jeep’s two-year stranglehold on the award. The Bow-Tie brand grabbed 25 percent of the vote versus Jeep’s 22 percent. Of note, the Chevrolet exhibit was part of a massive General Motors display that was the largest the U.S. automaker has ever assembled, anywhere.

Food drive nets 10+ tons
Late weekday crowds benefited the Chicago Christian Industrial League by contributing more than 21,000 pounds of canned foods. The CATA extends a $5 discount off regular adult admission to those who bring three cans of food Wednesday though Friday at the show.

Chrysler LLC, which sponsored the food drive, also donated $7,000 to the Chicago Christian Industrial League.

$37,300 disbursed in ACE awards
Effective salespeople in the displays netted a combined $37,300 under the Award for Customer Excellence (ACE) program.

Salespeople from area dealerships who worked in the manufacturer displays were evaluated each day by incognito judges who rated the salespeople using various criteria to award prizes of $150 on weekdays and $200 on weekends. Several salespeople won an ACE prize twice, and five won the award three times during the 10-day show:

  • Segundo Armendariz, Elgin Toyota
  • Ian O’Donohue, The Saab Exchange
  • Paul Price, Mercedes-Benz of Chicago
  • Luis Ramos, Castle Honda
  • Miguel A. Sanchez, Marquardt of Barrington

Congratulations to all the winners!