Chicago Auto Show returns in February to its traditional timing

·3 min read

CHICAGO — Seven months after its pandemic-driven special summer edition, the Chicago Auto Show is returning to McCormick Place this winter, offering traditional indoor exhibits, test tracks and perhaps the best chance to see new cars in person during the chip shortage.

The 2022 auto show is scheduled to run Feb. 12-21 — its traditional timing — with what promoters expect to be a familiar if slightly scaled-down version of the annual car-gazing event.

“We’ll still be missing a couple of brands and it’ll be impacted by the inventory shortage, but we’re very hopeful to have another great Chicago Auto Show,” said David Sloan, the show’s general manager.

The Chicago Auto Show was the city’s last major event before the pandemic hit in March 2020, disrupting both the auto and tourism industries. This year, it shifted to July, with a smaller five-day summer edition that utilized both indoor and outdoor exhibits at McCormick Place, as a pandemic-weary city began the long road back to hosting major events.

There have been 234 events canceled at McCormick Place since March 2020, costing the city a projected 3.4 million attendees, 2 million hotel room nights and nearly $3.1 billion in economic impact, according to Cynthia McCafferty, a McCormick Place spokeswoman.

The summer auto show was the first of 77 major events scheduled for the city’s primary convention center through the end of 2022, McCaffery said.

The return to a full 10-day indoor auto show in February is nonetheless an ambitious undertaking, particularly as the omicron variant stokes new concerns about a potential resurgence of COVID-19 infections. But Sloan said consumer demand is there, with 5,000 advance tickets sold on Cyber Monday, the day the show was announced.

The February show will feature the usual indoor test tracks and interactive exhibits. But the biggest draw may be the new car displays themselves, as dealership inventory remains sparse during the ongoing semiconductor shortage that has hampered auto production throughout the year.

“With so few cars on dealer lots right now, the auto show is going to be the place where people can come and really be able to see what’s out there,” Sloan said.

Sloan said electric vehicles will be a focus, driven by positive feedback from the summer show, where 75% of attendees surveyed said they were more likely to buy a hybrid or EV after the event. The show is hoping to add an indoor EV track to facilitate test drives across all brands, he said.

Startup EV truck manufacturer Rivian, which launched production of its R1T pickup truck at its Normal plant in September, is not planning to appear at the show, spokeswoman Amy Mast said Tuesday.

The California-based company raised nearly $12 billion through a massive initial public offering in November and has a market cap north of $100 billion — more than Ford or General Motors — despite producing only 180 R1T trucks as of Oct. 31, according to its IPO filing.

Production of its R1S SUV is set to begin in December.

Launched in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show went on hiatus during World War II as auto production was curtailed but hasn’t missed a year since it resumed in 1950.

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