Chicago auto show takes starring role

John Gilbert

The Chrysler Pacifica is redone as a 2021 model, with a hybrid and all-wheel drive available. Photo credit: John Gilber
The Chrysler Pacifica is redone as a 2021 model, with a hybrid and all-wheel drive available. Photo credit: John Gilbe

There is still this weekend for car fanciers to catch a flight or drive to Chicago for the final weekend of the Chicago Auto Show, something of a prize in the seemingly diminishing role of auto shows around the world and in this country. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Monday.

Those of us in the also-diminishing world of automotive journalists got a chance to visit McCormick Place for the preliminary media days last week — two days of previews of what is to come in the public time of the show, last Wednesday and Thursday.

There is not an overwhelming number of new and flashy cars, but there are enough to keep any car enthusiast on the move for several hours. For highlights, I found the new Ford Mustang Mach E fascinating. Ford has made major headlines about not building cars, eliminating the Taurus, Fusion, Focus and Escort, and continuing on with only the

The "Mach E" doesn't resemble garden variety Mustangs, but it is a pure electric Mustang model. Photo credit: John Gilbert
The "Mach E" doesn't resemble garden variety Mustangs, but it is a pure electric Mustang model. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Mustang, and its fleet of trucks and SUVs.

The Mach E is a pure electric car, and it may hint at how Ford will handle things. Eliminate all those slow-selling cars, and if you want to make an all-new car, go ahead; we’ll just call it a model of the Mustang. The familiar hot-rod pony car remains, of course, in various levels of performance, but the Mach E will be a pure electric car that will run without pistons or valves, using electric rechargeable motors to move on out.

Cadillac has redone its sporty sedan -- the CT4-V with new power and luxury. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Cadillac has redone its sporty sedan - the CT4-V with new power and luxury. Photo credit: John Gilbert

General Motors has pinned its hopes on the flashy new Corvette, with its mid-engine layout, and it has used its considerable promotion and marketing clout to persuade virtually every U.S. entity to name the new Vette as Car of the Year for 2021. Not only that, it will begin production in about a week, and might find its way to showrooms by summertime.

Ford is not resting on its considerable laurels, upgrading the Ford GT with new power and build-quality to become truly elite. It has been around for a decade, and it’s a low-slung, mid-engine, 2-seat sports car, Makes it easy to see what Chevrolet’s real target was for its mid-engine Corvette. We can’t even guess at the car-end of GM’s arsenal, but the SUVs keep on coming. There’s a new Escalade from Cadillac, and midsize Equinox from Chevrolet.

Chrysler, or rather FCA, which is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and which has just merged with Renault, which should make it a huge and varied conglomerate. But it also goes back to an old familiar nameplate — the Pacifica, which used to be the Caravan. The 2021 Pacifica is coming out in various new forms, including a hybrid, and an all-wheel-drive model that seems made just for us in the Great White North.

Honda's Civic tries to retain its status as the top-selling car in the U.S., adding a Type R. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Honda's Civic tries to retain its status as the top-selling car in the U.S., adding a Type R. Photo credit: John Gilbert
They call the next Ford GT "Liquid Carbon," and only 12 will be produced each year, and nobody asked the price. Photo credit: John Gilbert
They call the next Ford GT "Liquid Carbon," and only 12 will be produced each year, and nobody asked the price. Photo credit: John Gilbert
 The all-new Porsche Taycan is not truly a sports car, but a 4-door sedan! Photo credit: John Gilbert
The all-new Porsche Taycan is not truly a sports car, but a 4-door sedan! Photo credit: John Gilbert
Hyundai's Genesis luxury arm gets its own SUV, the GV-80. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Hyundai's Genesis luxury arm gets its own SUV, the GV-80. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Jeeps come in all sizes and shapes, and the new Gladiator adds a 4-door version of the new Mojave line. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Jeeps come in all sizes and shapes, and the new Gladiator adds a 4-door version of the new Mojave line. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Hyundai and Kia are adding to the impressive cars and SUVs they’ve developed, and while the new Sonata gets a hybrid, the Genesis luxury arm of the Hyundai-Kia arrangement adds an all-new luxury SUV, the GV-80.

That will be more than competitive with the newest vehicles from Japan, and from Europe, and all of them are on display at Chicago. The easiest way to tell you what’s there is to show your. My son, Jack, is my trusty photo assistant, and he and I got just about everything in some way, shape or form after driving from Minnesota into a blizzard in the Windy City.

The world of auto shows is undergoing every bit as much upheaval as the auto business this year. Which is plenty. Cars are driving themselves, running silently with electric power, advancing hybrid causes, adding every-more power and handling, and fitting into fewer and fewer cars and more and more trucks and SUVs. And the world’s biggest auto shows — Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, and New York, if you follow the industry closely — are changing just as much.

In the U.S., we’re wondering about Detroit switching its dates from January, and frozen weather time, to June, and the heat of summertime, that is something of a concession to Los Angeles as the season’s first show in this country. But now that Detroit is in the summer, it is halfway through the calendar year, and we can only speculate whether the forces of Detroit will willingly become the final big-time show of the year, or might get uppity and declare itself as the first show of next year!

Meanwhile, the biggest show in the world always has been Frankfurt, and despite having a dozen buildings to house the extravaganza every other year, it will now move to either Berlin or Munich. The Frankfurt show is so impressive it made the world appreciate Frankfurt as something more than a somewhat dreary industrial city. There will be no need to try to promote either Berlin or Munich, two of the world’s most impressive cities.

The result of all this is that the annual February Chicago Auto Show now becomes the first show of the new year in the U.S. And it remains the biggest, from the standpoint of spectators, who will keep clicking through Monday.

Regular readers deserve an apology for last week's Reader. A mixup caused by an e-mail notification failing to get through to me caused me to not realize our deadline for articles was Monday night instead of the usual Tuesday night. I didn't find the information until after midnight Monday night, too late to start writing, so the column that ran might have sounded familiar - because it was a hasty reprint from the previous week. Sorry about that.