2012 Chicago Auto Show an Indicator of Growing Economy


chicago auto show (select to view enlarged photo)

CHICAGO--Feb. 22, 2012: If the 10-day run of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show is any indication of where the nation's immediate economic future is heading, Americans can look for a uptick led by the auto sector.

"We felt a surge even before we opened the Chicago show's doors," said Dave Sloan, general manager of the annual show held at the mammoth McCormick Place on Chicago's lakefront. "Our pre-show sales were in excess of 200,000 tickets. That led us to believe that we were going to be in for a good year for both our exhibitors and our dealers once the show closed its doors."

"The region was blessed with cooperative weather, too, which helped drive the nation's largest auto show to its most successful finish since 2008," said Sloan. "The first weekend of our show generally leaves our area franchised new-car dealer showrooms a bit light, but by the second weekend, consumers are making decisions on where they're going to spend their money, and showroom traffic and purchases spike."

After the 2011 show, consumers took advantage of the buzz created by the show and subsequently hit dealerships with a fury that took dealers by surprise. Many of them reported triple-digit sales for the closing weekend of the month, with some customers taking advantage of special auto show bonuses that are truly "found money" incentives available during and immediately following the event. 2012 seems to be following the same model.

"There were other factors making the show a success," continued Sloan. "With more than five miles of truss lighting hanging over the show floor it literally shined. Spectacular exhibits packed with new products left consumers primed for a return to the market. Interactive engagement showed off new technology and taught everyone that the recent recession didn't slow down product research and development."

Aging Fleet, Gas Prices, and Readiness of the Industry

"The age of the nation's fleet is now older than it has ever been--nearly 12 years," said Steve Foley Jr., chairman of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. "Increasingly, people not only desire new cars, but have a need to replace what's in their garage.

Even rising fuel prices may not slow demand. For consumers who have been putting off a new-car purchase, this may be the incentive to spur their decision.

"High prices at the pump usually hurt new-vehicle sales," said Foley. "But in an odd twist, the industry may actually be poised to benefit from the situation."

Show-goers and consumers nationally are finding that the auto industry has never offered a broader selection of fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles.

"Old technology in the driveway and high prices at the corner gas station could send customers running to the showrooms for more fuel-efficient vehicles," said Foley.

Chicago : Where the Consumer Votes

For the seventh straight year, thousands of consumer voters proclaimed their favorites in five categories in the Chicago Auto Show's "Best of Show" balloting.

In voting conducted over the 10-day public run of the nation's biggest auto show, winners in the contest's five categories were:

  • Best All-New Production Vehicle: Ford Shelby GT500 (23 percent of vote)
  • Best Concept Vehicle: Lexus LF-LC (30 percent of vote)
  • Best Green Vehicle: Chevrolet Volt (24 percent of vote)
  • Best Exhibit: Jeep (29 percent of vote)
  • Vehicle I'd most like to have in my driveway: Ford Shelby GT500

"Best of Show voting has become a benchmark measure, and winning in any category is quite meaningful for our manufacturers and exhibitors," said show chairman Foley. "In a year where attendance increased yet again and we boasted four indoor test tracks and five outdoor test drives, consumers had a better chance than ever to weigh the competitors and let their voice be heard."

"The Chicago show doesn't offer an indicator of the local auto market alone," concluded Foley. "It foretells the return of the entire economy. If you look back at just about any recession our country has experienced since WWII, it was the automotive sector that led it back. Let's hope that the trend continues."

About The Chicago Automobile Trade Association
Founded in 1904, the Chicago Automobile Trade Association is the nation's oldest and largest metropolitan dealer organization. It is comprised of about 400 franchised new-car dealers and an additional 150 allied members. The group's dealer members employ about 19,000 people in the metropolitan area. The association has produced the world famous Chicago Auto Show since 1935. For more information, visit Chicago Auto Show.

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