The curtain rises Thursday on the Chicago Auto Show, which lacks the global panache of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but attracts more consumers.
While nearly all automakers' CEOs showed up in Detroit last month, most companies send mid-level executives to Chicago, which attracts a media pack that is about one-third as big as that found in Cobo Center.
"It is not a top international show," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com. "It is a great facility and should be a good consumer show but it is not on the global stage."
Chicago's McCormick Place has 1 million square feet of floor space, with room to display about 1,000 vehicles. That compares with 723,000 square feet of exhibit place at Cobo.
While Chicago organizers do not release annual attendance figures, the Chicago metropolitan area is the nation's third-largest after New York and Los Angeles and accounts for nearly 3% of U.S. retail sales, according to data from Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.
A study by Foresight Research showed 27% of local residents attend the Chicago show, and Chicago retail sales increased 28% last year in the month after the show compared with an 18% gain nationally.
Many of the new cars on display in Chicago already debuted in Detroit, including the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Cadillac ELR, Toyota Furia (Corolla) concept, Ford Atlas pickup concept and Acura MDX concept. But the vehicles will be new to show-goers.
Some concepts, like the Lincoln MKC compact crossover, will not be in Chicago. Ford is showing it in Washington, D.C., and Toronto instead of Chicago. Honda's Urban SUV concept, which is a precursor to a future subcompact vehicle, possibly the next-generation Fit, also won't be in Chicago.
"Chicago is not a significant show in terms of media introductions, but there are a couple key ones," Krebs said of the show that dates back to 1901.
One of the most important unveils will be Thursday's showing of the redesigned 2014 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup.
This adds more firepower to the pickup wars in the industry. Ram is still ramping up production of its new pickup that was named North American Truck of the Year last month. General Motors is preparing to launch the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. And Ford, determined not to lose its status as segment leader, showed its Atlas concept in Detroit as a template for the next-generation, 2015 F-150.
GM will show the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Chrysler has the world debut of the 2014 Ram ProMaster full-size commercial van to compete against the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter and Nissan NV.
Kia will unveil the sleek Cross GT large crossover concept inspired by nature and that fills a gap in its lineup.
Kia will also show another character-themed vehicle in partnership with DC Entertainment. The Superman Optima Hybrid will debut in Chicago and join a cast of cars that already pays homage to Batman, Aquaman, the Flash, Cyborg and Green Lantern.
Chicago in recent years has been the venue to show performance versions of vehicles. This year, expect news on the Ford Fiesta ST, as well as from Chrysler and Volkswagen.
Chrysler is also showing a Mopar customized vehicle: a limited-edition 2013 Dodge Dart coming this spring with a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and Mopar accessories.
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