People power rules at the Chicago motor show. Although few manufacturers use the event to unveil brand new models, Chicago is the largest of the US shows in terms of public footfall.
All those potential car buyers who brave the sub-zero temperatures to visit the event at McCormick Place, a convention centre not far from the shore of Lake Michigan, are hugely valuable for a domestic car industry looking for a welcome sales boost during the cold winter months.
The power of the car buying public dictated the trends themes of this year’s show: the rush among manufacturers to develop more SUVs and crossovers as these market segments explode; the ongoing development of frugal hybrid vehicles to meet the needs of both customers and law makers but, conversely, a continuance of the USA’s love affair with big-engined trucks and pick-ups, encouraged by low fuel prices.
The Chicago show kicked off with an address by Mark LaNeve, Ford’s boss of US marketing, sales and service, who followed up on the Blue Oval’s recent announcement that it would shuffle its model line-up and put a greater emphasis on SUVs and premium and performance models.
LaNeve revealed that Ford is planning to add four new SUV nameplates to its global model range, all in segments in which the company doesn’t currently compete. He said the decision was influenced by huge interest in SUVs from both older and younger car buyers.
Next up, Kia took centre stage to kick-start its eco-car revolution with the all-new Niro crossover and two versions of the Optima hybrid, one a parallel petrol-electric powertrain and the other a plug-in.
Kia’s US chief operating officer Michael Sprague stressed that this was only the beginning for the Korean manufacturer’s push towards further electrification of its model line-up, and we can expect some more bespoke models