I knew we had to attend this year’s Chicago Auto Show – the 115th edition. This time, we arrived as a team. It was just George and I.
It’s been three years since I walked out of McCormick Place for the last time. I handed off #VOTY19 and it all seemed that everything was “normal,” despite the incoming threat of the COVID-19 Pandemic
That health crisis threw a few curve balls at the Chicago Auto Trade Association to maintain their traditional auto show for the people of the Chicagoland area. Improvisation is a sign of resilience and creativity even in the face of government dictums.
I knew we had to attend this year’s Chicago Auto Show – the 115th edition. This time, we arrived as a team.
It was just George and I. Armed with video equipment and luggage packed into a 2023 Lexus RX 350. We drove into town with video ideas, the #VOTY2022 award, and the determination to accomplish the job at hand.
As much as I thought that it was a great idea and all, there were a few more curve balls thrown at me. Remember that I still have plenty of health issues to deal with: Toe amputations and my blasted spinal cord. I knew that I would not be able to keep pace with the million-plus square feet of auto show space without any mobility assistance.
As suggested by CATA, I connected with a company called Scootaround. They provide mobility devices for conventions, travel, and other attractions across the country and around the world. I had a scooter arranged to be picked up at the hotel for the use of the show. Let me say this: This helped my work tremendously!
It also yielded plenty of conversations. More on that later.
George and I headed down to the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place, the official hotel of the Chicago Auto Show. It is the first time in the 12 years of working media days that I stayed there. This is quite the milestone, albeit semi-significant.
The biggest thing for me was to reconnect with my colleagues and contacts. Some I have not seen since last May. Others…for years. This pandemic certainly threw a wrench for some of us in this business.
Coming into the Midwest Automotive Media Association Breakfast on Thursday, I was somewhere between nervous and “let’s get this over with.” Still, seeing my friends, colleagues, and contacts again made up for a lot of lost time. This will become the theme for the rest of the Media Days.
Throughout the first Media Day, I was catching up on looking at vehicles that I might have a slight chance of ever seeing again. Mostly General Motors products. In the meantime, George and I were concentrating on creating video content you will be seeing soon.
One highlight happened on Thursday morning: The awarding of #VOTY2022 to Ford. Dawn Mackenzie from Ford’s truck team accepted our award. It was definitely a heart-filled and fulfilling moment that morning.
After finishing up our videos, we retreated back to our room. At least, I did. My energy level was low and needed recovery. Not to mention, balancing workloads from the day job and such certainly became a challenge.
The final Media Day was spent catching up and wrapping up. Our plan was to drop the scooter at the bell desk by 12:00 PM and depart accordingly. I came upon a video idea, which we shot. But, that was about it.
Our job was done. More yields to come. But, was that it?
Let’s talk vehicles, shall we? Wintrust Bank sponsored an exotic car area that entice a few of us. It was great to see the Maserati MC20 and Gracale on the floor, along with the summary Rolls-Royces, McLarens, and Bentleys. The main attraction of this exhibit was the $2.8 million Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 in lime green. Yes, I know this is rebodied Aventador…I mean, you knew that, right?
Perhaps it is a sign of a latent jadedness on my part?
For more attainable rides, it was good to see the 2023 Toyota Crown and Prius. These two hybrid cars are headturners in their own right. I can’t wait to work with these. George and I actually got a ride in a 2023 Prius on Toyota’s indoor track. The prospects are good, indeed.
Over at Stellantis, my curiosity for the Alfa Romeo Tonale and Dodge Hornet lead me both of these Italian-built entry points for their brand. There was plenty of similarities between the two, except for specific brand design elements. I understand why they did this, but I have concerns.
As for the debuts, Toyota trotted out the 2024 Grand Highlander. I have to admit I’m curious. The wheelbase, length, and rear door stretch will allow for adult space in the third row, which is quite the proposition. Not to mention, the availability of its own Hybrid MAX driveline. If the price is right, this could be a good choice when shopping in the Grand Cherokee L space – or, perhaps a more “down to Earth” alternative to the truck-based Sequoia.
Volkswagen did a refresh of their Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport for 2024. The exterior received grille and lightning updates, while the cabin is now following the latest brand design elements. One concern popped up when I noticed that Volkswagen integrated their center touch screen design seen on the ID.4 and the Mk8 Golf onto the Atlas lineup. I hope they fixed the infotainment system on this one.
Subaru also did an update to the Crosstrek for 2024. A new grille and packages help tart up a very fun and capable compact crossover.
There is one such news item that should be shared here. On Friday morning, Scotty Reiss and her “A Girls’ Guide to Cars” team held their annual “What Drives Her” breakfast. Reiss’ handed off some awards and two of my professional friends walked away with huge honors. Cars.com’s Editor-In-Chief Jennifer Newman was named Automotive Ally for 2023. However, my friend and fellow journalist (and #VOTY panelist for the past two years) Kristin Shaw walked away with the Best In Craft award for her amazing work in our field. V&R congratulates both Newman and Shaw for their well-deserved accolades!
There are more stories to tell. Our YouTube channel will have them for you.
In the end, reconnecting with my colleagues and contacts in this business was more important. That rented blue Pride electric scooter from Scootaround was certainly a talking point – but, not about the scooter itself.
To the people I connected with at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, thank you. Our conversations helped in keeping me going through the challenges I dealt with at McCormick Place. It was a great show, Jennifer Morant – job well done!
And, thank you George for being a team at the show.
This is how I’ll remember my 12th Chicago Auto Show Media Days.
Photos by Randy Stern and George Torline