Auto Show opens in Chicago

February 12, 2010 9:47:54 AM PST
The biggest car show in North America has rolled into Chicago.On Friday morning, Secretary of State Jesse White cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place.

It runs through February 21 and features the latest models as well as some concept cars.

More than 1,000 vehicles graced the showroom floor at this year's Chicago Auto Show, and while you still see the wow factor from pricey sports cars to innovative concepts, the mood is shifting to the more practical.

"We have a lot of electric vehicles, lot of hybrid vehicles. We have clean-burning diesel fuel cars. Crossovers are big, real big for the family," said John Phelan, Chairman, Chicago Auto Show.

Transit Connect is Ford's first pure electric-powered vehicle. It goes into production later this year. Chevrolet is hoping the long-awaited Volt electric car will launch next year. Consumers are still more comfortable, though, with the hybrid electric vehicles.

"The biggest concern is still what's called range anxiety. If my battery runs dead, will I be able to get anywhere? Will I be able to find a place to charge it? The answer oftentimes is no," said Joe Wiesenfelder, senior editor,

Affordable, efficient compact vehicles are big this year, and there are plenty to choose , from the Ford Fiesta to the popular Hyundais. High tech is everywhere, especially on the dashboards with touch-screen navigation, voice control and even Web access.

"I think driver distraction is going to be a huge issue in the coming years, worse than ever, and I think the manufacturers are happy to say, 'Oh, it's voice controlled,' which is their way of saying, 'That fixes everything, we can do whatever we want.' Honestly, I don't believe it," said Wiesenfelder.

Illinois has a new no-texting-while-driving law that went into effect January 1.