Fun at this year's Chicago Auto Show

February 13, 2009 3:04:26 PM PST
How do you get the public to attend an auto show in a bad economy? You make it fun! That's exactly what they've done. There's a Chevy display, for example, with cars from the Transformers movie. Even if you don't walk away sold on a new car, you walk away with a smile.

From stylish lines to fuel economy, the Chicago Auto Show is the industry's moment to shine, even if consumers are hesitant to spend.

"Things have definitely changed in everybody's world, whether you're in the automobile business or the furniture business. On the other hand, at the auto show, the cars are the stars, and there are more than 1,000 SUVs, cars and trucks. They're all here," said Chicago Auto Show Chairman Mark Scarpelli.

Some displays are smaller this year. Some are bigger. But all the players, foreign and domestic, are there. The show itself may not appear that different, but the focus for consumers is shifting.

"I think there's a little bit more interest in fuel efficiency and affordable cars, and I think it's a good time to come because anyone who hasn't shopped for a new car in two or three years has no idea how much better things get," Joe Wiesenfelder, Sr. editor for

If you're looking for more bang for your buck, the Kia Forte compact car has a very low entry price. The Nissan Cube is less than $14,000.

For efficiency, the Honda insight states 43 miles per gallon, but auto industry test drives have shown 50 or more. Even concept cars are stressing green. The Chrysler 200c EV is a range extended electric vehicle. The Cadillac Converj concept has 40 miles of electric power with an on-board generator.

And there's the fun factor! Just about every display is interactive. At the secretary of state's exhibit, visitors can order the new President Obama license plates before they are available nationwide in April.

If visitors do nothing else, they should check out the Army display with Humvee simulators, e-photos with the Golden Knights parachutists. They can even be crew members on a virtual apache helicopter flight.

The simulators are going to be the big hit this year.

You can get more information on the show at

Also, check out my blog over the weekend. I'd like to know what things will bring readers like you back into the new car market.