2012 Chicago Auto Show: Studs and Duds

By Keith Buglewicz | February 10, 2012
The Chicago Auto Show bills itself as the biggest in the world, and to a certain extent that's true. McCormick Place is the biggest convention center in the world, and the show itself attracts huge numbers of visitors when it's open to the public. Like other auto shows, it's a chance for the various automakers to show off new concepts, new vehicles that will be going on sale, or to showcase updates to existing vehicles. However, this year at Chicago, the pickings were a little slim, so rather than our usual list of five Studs and five Duds, we're paring it down a bit.
Stud: Kia Track'ster Concept Introduced with a scream of heavy metal, the Track'ster concept gives us a glimpse of what the next Kia Soul may look like. At least, that's the official line. We think there could be an ulterior motive here. Did anybody else notice that the Track'ster and the Hyundai Veloster are roughly the same size and shape? And what about those names, both ending with the "-ster" suffix? Could Kia be thinking of introducing its own sporty coupe? It would be a natural move, and judging by the crowd's reaction to the chunky shape, we think this is one concept that should start making its way to reality.
Studs: Hyundai Elantra Coupe and GT Hyundai's Elantra sedan is a success by any measure, with expressive styling, excellent fuel economy and a price that nails the stuff-per-dollar quotient perfectly. So why not introduce a handsome coupe and fun looking hatchback? Sure, they won't add a whole lot to the bottom line, and Hyundai says they will combine for a possible extra 50,000 Elantras each year. But that would move the Elantra up to around 250,000 vehicles per year; that's Honda Civic territory. And don't think that's a coincidence, either, as Hyundai made no bones about benchmarking the Civic.
Dud: The Chicago Auto Show The whole show is a dud? Let us explain what we mean here. First, this is not meant as a slap to the rest of the automakers who showed up in Chicago. Nor is it meant as a way of denigrating the show's many paying customers over the next two weeks. No, we're specifically talking about how timing and circumstance have reduced the Chicago show's role over the past few years.
When organizers of the Los Angeles Auto Show moved their show to November, it had the inadvertent effect of putting a squeeze on Chicago. Shoved in mere weeks after the big daddy Detroit Auto Show, and followed closely by Geneva and New York, the Chicago show has had little to offer publicity-hungry automakers. Sure, it's easy for a single company to have a big flashy display and show off a single concept car, as Kia did this year. But that's expensive, and if it's just one company doing it, well, it could probably wait until New York, or be pulled forward to Detroit or Los Angeles. The simple fact is that it's tough for the media hordes (of which we are card carrying members) to justify the traveling expense and potential lost productivity of a couple days out of the office to cover what are essentially a group of updates, special editions, or refreshes of existing vehicles. We don't plan the Chicago Auto Show, and we don't know what will happen in the future; automotive journalists have a well-deserved reputation for being lousy prognosticators. But the collective murmur around the show was simple: Will we all be in Chicago again next year?