The Chicago Auto Show is an annual event held in early February at Chicago's McCormick Place. It is one of the greatest auto shows in the country because you can see hundreds of different makes and models of vehicles in an exhibit hall that has over one million square feet of floor space.
Because I am a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), I get in on the press days just before the show opens to the general public. That means no elbowing my way through crowds to gawk at the latest concept cars, luxury cars, performance cars and new models the vehicle manufacturers are introducing at the show. There are, however, crowds of automotive journalists, freelance writers, reporters, editors, photographers and others attending the various press events that scheduled throughout both of the press days.
I'm a car guy, so I love a show like this. My favorite cars are always the concept cars. Most are just design concept vehicles that will never go into production. But they do give us a preview of some of the new trends and technologies that are coming down the road. They also allow vehicle manufacturers to judge public reaction to a particular style or certain design features. And if the public (and automotive journalists) see something that really excites them, it can tip the scales in favor of actually producing the vehicle. This was certainly the case with the concept Camaro and Dodge Challenger cars that GM and Chrysler plan to build in response to Ford's retro-look Mustang.
If you are thinking about buying a new car or truck, a show like this allows you to compare different makes and models by simply walking from one exhibit to the next. The features are listed and the manufacturer's prices are clearly posted (subject to negotiation, of course). Best of all, you can browse in complete freedom because there are no annoying salesperson to pounce on you. If you have a question, each exhibit has people who can answer your questions. If you want more information, there are reams of free product brochures. Some exhibitors even give away free souvenirs to help you remember their vehicles or the show itself. GM was giving away cars at this year's show, and Jeep and Chrysler were both giving away free rides on their indoor off-road course and test tracks (both of which were HUGE hits).
The admission to this year's show was $10, which I feel was a reasonable sum for all you could see and do. But the Chicago Park District whacked visitors $16 for the privilege of parking outdoors in their very pedestrian unfriendly parking lot south of the McCormick Place exhibit hall. And yes, even the press had to pay to park (even da press don't get nuttin for free in Chicago).