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Chicago Auto Show attendance up 10%; sales spike in its wake

March 4, 2011
For more than a century, if there is one thing the Chicago Auto Show does better than any other, it is to bring consumers and cars together.  And thanks to great deals from manufacturers, a reenergized appreciation of new cars and technology, pent-up demand—and some cooperation from Mother Nature—dealers around Chicago are experiencing a dramatic post-show bump in sales.  
With four distinct indoor test tracks, an almost endless sea of expertly marketed vehicles, an amazing array of interactive hands-on displays and a natural love affair that Americans have with personal mobility, visitors to the 2011 Chicago Auto Show had every opportunity to imagine themselves as the proud owner of a new car—and now those elements have come together, translating to floor traffic and sales. 
"At the show, people ask questions, explore and compare vehicles, and have a chance to actually feel the wheel in their hands," said Kevin Mize, chairman of the 2011 Chicago Auto Show. "At that point, the motivation machine starts up, and by the time show goers get home, many are ready to turn their fantasy into the next resident of their garage."
The energy and subsequent dealership activity created by the show is more than spotty or anecdotal. It’s widespread and apparently transcends all lines and styles.  
"January was a tough month and the first two weeks of February were a disaster," recounted Arlington Heights Ford proprietor John Guido. "We lost three days due to the storm and our salespeople were down in the dumps even before the snow hit. 
"But then the auto show steamroller started and it absolutely made a difference. It was like someone opened the floodgates for a solid 14 days. We sold 10 new cars this past Friday, then 18 Saturday, 10 more on Monday. We had nine dealer trades in one day. In one day! That tells me that there’s activity all over and it’s exciting. 
"As for the Ford dealers in Chicago region, I’ve seen sales sheets that were in the 50-60 unit range for the final two weeks. There were four dealers who sold 100 or more new units."
Denise Guardino, president of Bill Jacobs BMW-Mini in Naperville and Land Rover dealerships in Hinsdale and Hoffman Estates, said her sales teams were overwhelmed by traffic the second half of February.
"What an amazing month," said Guardino. "We wound up with Land Rover  ranking No. 1 in the region, No. 2 for BMW, No. 1 for Mini. And it was all fresh business, not holdovers. We’re so encouraged.
"We’ve also had tremendous feedback on the (Land Rover) Evoque, which could only have originated from auto show activity and interest. The only place they could have seen it was at the show, as there’s only one brochure per dealership produced.  I’d say the same about the Mini Countryman. Since the show we’ve sold eight in one week."
Auto show officials said attendance increased 10 percent over 2010 numbers. And by discounting admission to those who contributed to a food drive, the show gathered 20,000 pounds of non-perishable good for A Safe Haven Foundation, which collects for the homeless and hungry.