It's a year of firsts at the Chicago Auto Show: the first auto show in July, the first outdoor test track, the first night time auto show street fest, and the first trade show at McCormick Place since the pandemic shutdown.
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"It's a big day and we're so excited to be back at McCormick Place, opening the building, reopening the building for all these people who work here," said Dave Sloan, Chicago Auto General Manager.
The show is in a building to the west off of Indiana Avenue. It's smaller, and shorter, but attendees should still wear comfortable shoes: There's a lot of ground to cover.
On Wednesday morning, organizers were still putting the finishing touches on the 2021 Chicago Auto Show Special Edition.
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By 9 a.m. Thursday, you'll be able to navigate your way through one of the first major public events to reopen at McCormick place. You'll see everything from new reveals like the 2022 second generation Jeep Compass and the 10th anniversary Ram limited edition, to fan-favorite Camp Jeep, now in its 17th year.
"The whole purpose of Camp Jeep is to give consumers an idea of how Jeep handles in an off-road situation," said Kelley Enright, Jeep communication manager.
The experience can be a fun way to do that, and speaking of fun, and sporty, the Nissan Z Proto will be at the show, and it has a lot of design features those of a certain age will remember from the early 240Z.
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"If you look at the front, it has the quintessential front bumper that you would see on the 240Z," said Jonathan Buhler, Nissan production manager. "In addition to that, it's got the hood bulge from the original 240Z, the Y-shaped hood bulge.
There's lots of family fun, too. Subaru is bringing back its popular National Parks exhibit, which has been a big hit at previous shows.
The most popular type of car right now may surprise you: electric vehicles. The Ford Mustang Mach-E falls into that category, especially after the tax credits and incentives.
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"The overwhelming trend is the return of EVs. We've seen them before, but in this case they may have more staying power," said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor at cars.com. "What we're seeing is vehicles Americans really like. We know Americans really like the SUV, especially the small, more affordable ones."
Outside or in, you'll find some first-evers, including the all new EV-6 fully electric car from KIA.
"The biggest thing we've taken away for people here is range anxiety. This car does up to 300 miles of range, which means that's more than most people drive in a week," said Michael McHale, Kia Director of Brand Experience.
But this auto show is about more than your new car. It's about reopening a storied facility, getting our city back to normal, and getting people back to work with more on the horizon.
"It is meaningful because when we showed up last week, a lot of the McCormick Place employees just came up just to say, 'thanks for coming back,'" Sloan said.
"It's just not like this one show and see you again in a couple of months. A lot of the men and women who work for us are going to leave this show and go to other shows. There's events throughout the Midwest we're doing," said John O'Shea, of Carpenters Local 10.
So if you're in it for the big, the fast, or the more practical, you can come out to McCormick Place starting Thursday. The show opens at 9 a.m. indoors and 6:30 p.m. for the outdoor street fair.
"The roots of car shows: Car shows are halls, candy floss and people kids enjoying themselves walking around the shiny stuff," McHale said. "We bring the shiny stuff."
There's a lot of fun to be had, but a real sense of solidarity at this auto show as it marks another turning point for the city.