For detailed information on each manufacturer press conference, click on the links below.
The presentation began with the announcement of the 2011 winner of the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year Award. The top three finalists were the Honda Odyssey, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and winner, the Hyundai Sonata. CATA President and Auto Show Co-General Manager, Dave Sloan, then highlighted the features of the 2011 Chicago Auto Show, including 82,000 square-feet of additional show floor displays and three new test tracks being featured in the show, including Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota and Jeep’s returning track. He also announced the first ever Social Media Event being offered at the Chicago Auto Show beginning on Thursday, February 9 on the second day of the Media Preview.
Jim Farley, Group Vice President of Global Sales Marketing and Service, took the stage and updated the media on the current success the 2011 models. The 2011 Ford Explorer was named Truck of the Year and has brought 1,200 new jobs to the South Side of Chicago with the local manufacturing plant in the production of the new line of vehicles. Using a new marketing approach that focuses on starting early and engaging customers, Ford has ignited a campaign that is customer centric and based on building trusting relationship with the consumer.
By employing the use of social media and web based marketing, Ford has taken advantage of the 82 percent increase in global social media use from the previous year. Farley covered the spotlights on new cars, including racecar driver, Ken Block, driving the Ford Fiesta in a European race, the 2011 Ford Focus rally that engages the use of social and electronic media, and the "What Would You Go Do" contest with the 2011 Ford Explorer. The company is focusing on the ambitions of the customers and benefits for non-profits in these new marketing strategies.
Rick Scheidt, the U.S. Vice President of Marketing for Chevrolet told the crowd that the Camaro was about bringing smiles to faces. That couldn't have been truer as the new 2012 Camaro ZL1 crossed the stage.
The ZL1 is planned to launch early in 2012 and will feature a supercharged V-8 engine, producing an estimated 550 horsepower. According to Chevy, this Camaro is the complete package, not just a new model with more power. Highlights include an updated transmission with higher torque capacity, dual-mode exhaust system first used on the legendary Corvette, and a suspension featuring Magnetic Ride Control. The Magnetic Ride system will allow the driver to select their preferred style of driving- either Tour or Sport.
To commemorate the centennial celebrations of both Chevrolet and the Indianapolis 500, Chevy also announced the release of a limited edition Camaro SS Convertible, a replica of the 1969 pace model. The white car will feature orange stripes, the colors of the original '69 pace car. Scheidt made the announcement, referencing the long history Chevrolet has shared with the Brickyard. 500 pace car replicas will be manufactured this spring for Camaro enthusiasts and Indy fans.
Hyundai President and CEO, John Krafcik greeted media at the Chicago Auto Show this morning with much excitement as Hyundai is celebrating their 25th anniversary here in the United States this month. Krafcik offered up a wealth of information pointing to the brand's success over the last year. According to the CEO, in 2010, Hyundai broke their all time sales record by selling over 500,000 vehicles.
Taking center stage at Hyundai's press conference was the unveil of the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec by Vice President Mike O'Brien.
Also, joining John Krafcik at the press conference were racecar driver, Rhys Millen, and Motocross professional, Robbie Maddison. Rhys Millen drove out on stage in the Hyundai Veloster Rally Car. The Veloster is the newest Hyundai model.
President and CEO Jonathan Browning began the press conference at the Volkswagen stage with the company's goals for success in the United States. He said Volkswagen strives for its promise of "German Engineering for All," making its vehicles accessible to the greatest array of people.
"There are two parts to that promise, 'German Engineering' and 'For All,' " Browning said. "Delivering on both of those is a real challenge, but also a real opportunity."
After sharing the brand's delighted reaction to the success of VW's 2011 Super Bowl commercials, Browning revealed the new 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Among other things, the GLI features a Fender sound system, made by the iconic company famous for its amplifiers and musical instruments. The choice to partner with Fender was announced in December 2010, with the tag line, "the best seat in the house is now behind the wheel."
The 2012 Acura TL established itself as a car of sophistication and refinement during its debut at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show. The Japanese luxury vehicle introduced a new look designed to improve aerodynamics and provide customers with a practical yet refined automobile.
Visually, the 2012 Acura TL stands out with a redesigned front and rear bumper. A 6-speed automatic transmission enhances the vehicles performance, while the double-kick-down feature allows the driver to complete a double down shift. With a new multi-clutch torque converter that reduces heat inside the transmission, the Acura TL offers increased fuel economy.
According to the brand, the new designs and features were shaped by Acura's smart luxury philosophy, which embraces the idea of less excess and more practicality for drivers. Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales, referred to the new model as bold, yet refined, two words that embody the name of the Acura brand.
The Dodge brand introduced a new lineup of R/T performance vehicles at Wednesday's Chicago Auto Show press conference. Everything from the sports car to the minivan saw upgrades including the Charger, Challenger, Journey, Durango and the surprising Grand Caravan.
"We have customers who love cars, who love the thrill of driving, but can only afford one car," said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO, Dodge Brand--Chrysler Group LLC. For this reason, Dodge worked to create the "Man Van." The new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan gives the driver a spirited driving experience, while still allowing them the ability to take care of their families and responsibilities. Gilles referred to the all-black interior of the vehicle as a "man cave" complete with a premium sound system.
Next, Dodge introduced their newly styled Durango, saying they wanted to put the "sport" back in "sport utility." The 2011 Durango features a V-8 engine and delivers 360 horsepower, in addition to a best-in-class towing capability of 7,400 pounds. The interior includes digital suede seats, 506-watt sound system, remote start and Uconnect.
The final model presented by Dodge was the brand's world-class performance Charger. The new Charger SRT8 is "one hell of a machine," according to Gilles. The company hoped to create models that were sleek but outrageous and quiet but mind-blowing. The Charger does just that boasting a 5.7 liter HEMI V-8 engine that delivers 370 horsepower. Dodge calls the new Charger the "enthusiast's office," giving passengers the Uconnect Touch- a system that combines infotainment and convenience technologies to keep passengers connected. Gilles said they hope the Charger will be the "exclamation point on their 'Never Neutral' concept."
Economic Club of Chicago Luncheon
The Economic Club of Chicago hosted its special Chicago Auto Show meeting today at McCormick Place, which featured a keynote address by Volkswagen President and CEO Jonathan Browning.
Browning addressed the club members, guests and media by explaining its strategy for U.S. success. He spoke about the opening of the Chattanooga, Tennessee, facility and how it builds on previous VW accomplishments to root the company further in the American automobile industry.
After speaking of the company's community involvement, market strategy and overall achievements, Browning invited the audience to sit back and relive the Super Bowl by showing the critically acclaimed advertisements for the Passat and Beetle. He explained how the commercials were released on YouTube before the weekend, generating thousands of views even before kickoff on Sunday.
News from Suzuki today centers around the brand's expanding social media network and the Facebook game contest All Points. Today in Chicago the winner of this contest, Mark Rouch, was presented with the prize, a 2011 Suzuki Kizashi.
Suzuki also announced that continued interest from consumers in the All Points game lead to the development of the Ring of Fire racing game and Live Large video contest. Suzuki plans to release versions of the Ring of Fire and Live Large games with options for Android users and Wii game consoles as well.
According to the brand, Suzuki continues to move forward in the industry finishing the final quarter of 2010 with three consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases, acquiring numerous product awards, and implementing new marketing initiatives. In future plans, the Japan affiliate will be introducing the new Swift concept car at the Geneva Auto Show in March of this year.
2011 will be the year of the RAM, according to President and CEO Fred Diaz. Their year kicked off this week at the Chicago Auto Show with the debut of two new trucks that embody RAM's reputation of durability and quality-the Tradesman 1500 and the 3500 HD. This was the RAM brand's first-ever debut at an auto show.
The RAM Tradesman 1500, which Diaz described as a hard-working truck for hard-working people, is designed for commercial use. The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine provides impressive fuel efficiency at 20 miles per gallon. Available in short or long bed, the Tradesman can tow over 10,000 pounds. Pricing for the Tradesman starts at $22,780.
The RAM 3500 HD is equipped with a turbo diesel engine and emits no diesel exhaust fluid, reducing cleaning time. The new truck features the largest brakes in class, and its maximum trailer tow rating is 22,700 pounds.
RAM also featured their Outdoorsman, the truck created by and for hunters and fishermen, according to Diaz. The Laramie Longhorn, which Diaz named the most luxurious truck on the market was also on display at the show.
"We're committed to making RAM the most durable and reliable truck on the market," said Diaz. Both of the new truck models will be available during the second quarter of 2011.
John Luft, President of Shelby American began the conference with the introduction of the 2012 Shelby GT350. Also present was Gary Davis, the Vice President of Production Research and Development. Davis spoke on specific features and the development process behind this automobile, sharing how the GT350 mirrors the original Shelby Mustangs. For example: the Crager wheels and the newly designed rear of these cars are reminders of the old days.
The 2012 GT350 will be available in Performance White with blue LeMans stripes, Race Red with white LeMans stripes and Kona Blue with white LeMans stripes.
The 2012 GT350 is the first convertible Shelby has released since 1970. According to Davis, only 350 will be made and distributed. The 2012 Shelby GT350 will cost anywhere between $60,000 and $90,000 depending on engine package.
Continental, the Tier I automotive supplier, announced at Wednesday’s press conference its three-year commitment to sponsor the Chicago Auto Show.
Executive Vice President with Continental Corporation Kieran O’Sullivan shared with media plans to showcase its safety, connectivity and infotainment technology over the next three years. Continental technology is available to more than 1.2 million consumers each year. The use of sophisticated software and hardware will ultimately change how drivers and passengers interact with their vehicles.
O’Sullivan stated that Chicago drivers experience the second longest commute in the U.S., only one of the reasons Continental is passionate about working with the Chicago automobile industry and the Chicago Auto Show. The supplier aims to reduce the amount of gas wasted, on average 50 gallons of fuel in one year, and money lost in these commutes.
MotorWeek announced today the Chevy Volt as the winner of its "Best of the Year" 2011 Drivers' Choice Award.
Recognized as the best overall among MotorWeek's 13 award categories, the electric Volt also took top honors in the "Best Eco-Friendly" category. The car was revealed today at a press conference held at the Chicago Auto Show. At the conference, MotorWeek gave out ice cream and books as gifts for media.
"For all its game-changing technology, the Volt at heart is a great car that is fun to drive with none of the range-limiting drawbacks associated with electric vehicles," said Rick Scheidt, VP of Marketing for Chevrolet. "MotorWeek's recognition of these attributes confirms what we are hearing consistently-the Volt got it right out of the gate."
The individual winners of MotorWeek's other categories include:
Best Small Car: Volkswagen Jetta
Best Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata
Best Sport Sedan: BMW 5-Series
Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M
Best Sport Coupe: Cadillac CTS Coupe
Best Performance Car: Ford Mustang GT
Best Small Utility: Chevrolet Equinox
Best Large Utility: Jeep Grand Cherokee/Dodge Durango
Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Best Pickup Truck: Ford F-Series
Best Eco-Friendly: Chevrolet Volt
Best Convertible: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet
Best Dream Machine: Audi R8 Spyder, Alfa Romeo 8C Spider Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible
350 Green, The City of Chicago & Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
On Friday, February 18 at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and officials from the City of Chicago announced the selection of 350Green, a developer of electric vehicle (EV) charging networks, to design, build and operate a network of 280 EV charging stations throughout the Chicago area.
According to officials, this program will help to ease the most pressing concerns consumers have about electric vehicles: range anxiety and access to overnight charging. It is expected that construction, operation and management of the 73 DC Fast and 207 Level 2 charging stations, plus the opening of a nationwide customer support center, will create approximately 50 jobs in the greater Chicago area.
In addition to Governor Quinn, speakers at the press conference included Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Commissioner of the Department of Environment for the City of Chicago; Mariana Gerzanych, CEO of 350Green; and Robert Wislow, CEO of U.S. Equities.
Prius Goes Plural
Toyota announced that the general public has selected ‘Prii’ as the preferred plural term for Prius today at the Chicago Auto Show. After the more than 1.8 million votes were cast during the course of the six-week campaign, Prii beat out its four competitors: Prius, Priuses, Prium and Prien.
Jay Schwartz, head of content for Dictionary.com, was on hand to inform the public that, as the plural of Prius has now been determined, the term ‘Prii’ will be reflected in Dictionary.com.
Following the announcement, Metro Chicago Toyota Dealers gave away a 2011 Prius.