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  • 2017 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.

    This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.

    Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chicago Auto Show

    Year of the truck

    By Nina Russin

    Toyota TRD Pro Tacoma

    Toyota TRD Pro Tacoma

    The Chicago Auto Show held each February at the McCormick Place convention center on the shores of Lake Michigan is epic in every way: it has the biggest show floor and the best consumer attendance of any such show in the US. There’s something for everyone at Chicago, but this year it was the trucks that stole the show. From the world premier of the 2017 Nissan Armada that kicked off the media preview to Ram’s newest Power Wagon, Kia’s new hybrid utility vehicle and Toyota’s TRD Pro Tacoma, automakers unveiled their newest designs for adventurous travel. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Chrysler/Toyota Win Top Spots at TAWA Roundup

    OEMs bring over 50 vehicle entries to March ride-and-drive event

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Major League Photography

    Photo courtesy of Major League Photography

    Everything is bigger in Texas. From bighorn steers to ten-gallon hats, the Lone Star state is the land of supersizing.

    This includes the weather. Because north Texas lies in the path of the Jetstream, the area gets a lot of wintery weather other sections of the southwest miss. People who live in north Texas are used to this, so Plan A always includes a Plan B.

    When pouring rain, wind and forty-degree temperatures on the day of the Spring Roundup put the kibosh on hot laps at Texas Motor Speedway, members of the Texas Auto Writers Association donned their thinking caps and executed Plan B.

    And although journalists missed the opportunity to drive supercars such as the Dodge Viper, Nissan GT-R and Chevrolet Corvette on the track, neither the cars nor program attendees spent much time in the garages. Everyone had a good day of driving. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show fills McCormick Place

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Press Conference

    Nissan Press Conference

    The history of the Chicago Auto Show dates back to 1901: the same year Walt Disney was born on a cold December day, Winston Churchill made his maiden speech in the British House of Commons and baseball’s American League launched its maiden season.

    During its 107-year history, Chicago has become one of the four biggest auto shows in the country and the most heavily attended by consumers. The Chicago Auto Trade Association reported sales of 250,000 tickets for the 2015 show prior to the box office opening.

    Sandwiched between the holiday season and the onset of spring, the Chicago Auto Show entices parents and their kids to break free of the confines of their homes at a time when the weather is frigid and daylight scarce. The McCormick Place convention center is large enough to hold something for everyone, from indoor test tracks to a special edition SpongeBob Toyota Sienna minivan for the kids.

    Media days for the 2015 show took place on February 11-13. The show opened to the public on February 14 and runs through the 22nd. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Active Lifestyle Vehicle Winners

    Athletes and journalists reveal top picks from thirty vehicle entries

    By Nina Russin

    Photo by Chris Dodson

    Photo by Chris Dodson

    The Carspondent.com Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year’, the only car-of-the-year competition that combines the input of automotive journalists with elite and area athletes, announces winners for the 2015 model year competition.

    This year’s event that took place at the Local Motors’ micro-factory in Chandler, Arizona was the most competitive in program history, including thirty vehicles from over a dozen auto manufacturers, automotive journalists and close to 100 athletes. Winners were often decided by hundredths of a point.

    Athletes on hand for the October 18 finals included members of Arizona Legends, retired NFL players of Arizona, representatives from Sole Sports Running Zone, Fit Mom Diet and Fit Fathers, elite runners, triathletes, paddlers, cyclists, swimmers and more. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Buying and Selling

    Smoothing the transition into new wheels

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Tempe Dodge

    Photo courtesy of Tempe Dodge

    Back in the day September was the official start of the new car model year and with it, the beginning of car-buying season. Late in the summer the automakers would host full model previews that every journalist with a press card in his or her fedora attended. Dealerships covered their windows with paper to block the public’s view until voila! The new models debuted.

    Today the automakers introduce new car models year-round, and a shopper is as likely to sign on the dotted line in June as in January. The beginning of auto show season at the end of September is the last remnant of the good old days described above.

    What has not changed is the anxiety many car shoppers experience as they begin the journey into a new set of wheels. This doesn’t necessarily start at the dealership. Car owners are as nervous about selling their existing car as they are about shopping for a new one. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show heats up McCormick Place

    By Nina Russin

    Toyota Stand at the Chicago Auto Show

    Toyota Stand at the Chicago Auto Show

    Chicago is the third of four major US auto shows, and has the distinction of being the most heavily attended. With over 1,000 new cars and trucks on display, special indoor tracks and interactive activities, the show held at the McCormick Place convention center attracts over a million visitors each year.

    While Chicago lags behind Detroit in the number of new vehicle reveals, it has historically been a show to watch for big surprises. The first Mazda Miata, Ford Taurus SHO and Toyota Tundra crew cab were all revealed in Chicago. This year Nissan pulled the wraps off its Frontier Diesel Runner technical study, Kia unveiled an all-electric Soul, Subaru debuted the 2015 Legacy and Volvo unleashed Polestar versions of the 2015 S60 sedan and V60 wagon.

    The theme of connected cars ran throughout the show, with a special display by Continental, which has partnered with Nokia to do research and development. The concept that first emerged in the early 1990s has grown wings thanks to smartphone technology that is allowing OEMs to connect drivers with navigation and traffic data, repair services and the cloud. Within the decade, autonomous cars are a realistic possibility. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Green and red hot

    By Nina Russin

    Jaguar F-Type Coupe Reveal

    Jaguar F-Type Coupe Reveal

    I can’t think of a city in the United States where cars have a bigger impact on lifestyle and culture than they do in Los Angeles. Although the LA freeway system is the second largest in the nation behind New York, the city is dead last in terms of freeway lanes per resident.

    As a result, Angeleans live in their cars; much of the time sitting in traffic. So it’s a no brainer that the City of Angels is obsessed with green technology. Aside from air quality concerns, the cost of constant refueling can drain a person’s bank account.

    The first of the four major auto shows held in the US between September and April, the 2013 LA show featured Hyundai’s fuel cell version of the Tucson, Honda’s FCEV concept, the 2014 Lexus CT 200h, Audi A3 TDI and plug-in hybrid and BMW i3 coupe concept.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum were the sports cars. Jaguar delighted with the coupe version of its sexy F-Type, Mercedes pulled the blankets off the Vision Gran Turismo, Nissan debuted the 2015 GT-R NISMO, and Maserati unveiled the new Ghibli. Olympic hundred meter gold medalist, Usain Bolt was on hand with Nissan, adding his own personal brand of sizzle.

    Personally, I like the yin/yang mix. The auto industry is not without a conscience, but that it also has passion. Auto shows have traditionally been places to dream, going back to the idea cars of the 1930s and dream cars of the 1950s and 60s. Without concept cars, auto shows would be, frankly, sexless. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    Life’s a beach

    By Nina Russin

    2013 VW Beetle Convertible

    No car was a purer expression of the Summer of Love than the original Beetle convertible. With its air-cooled four-cylinder engine, four speed manual gearbox, canvas top and no-nonsense interior, the Beetle was the antithesis of Detroit’s mighty muscle cars, and hence an icon for the sixties counterculture.

    It was for automobiles what the Jimi Hendrix was for music. Driving a Beetle said to the world: “I dance to the beat of my own drum.”

    At a time when Americans are rethinking decades of excess, and reevaluating the value of human interaction as opposed to personal wealth, the Beetle convertible’s message takes on new meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show

    OEMs predict a brighter 2013

    By Nina Russin

    The fourth-generation Range Rover made its North American debut in LA

    Los Angeles is the first of four major auto shows in the United States, and therefore sets the tenor for the remainder of the season. While sales statistics can be misleading, catering spreads which accompany the various press conferences are much more telling.

    Before the crash of 2008, the show floor was rife with the spoils of success. It was rare to find any press conference without an espresso machine and plates of scones. Full-fledged buffets with open bars were not unusual. I remember one automaker inviting journalists to take home folding chairs set out for the event. The chairs were nice enough to furnish a summer cabin.

    When things went black four years ago, it was hard to find a bottle of water on the show floor, much less a cappuccino. While I don’t condone swag wagons at editorial functions, the lack thereof was certainly telling.

    Gradually, the amenities came back, beginning with some ice buckets with refreshments and the occasional Danish pastry. But it was not until the 2012 show which opened to the media this week that “real food” made its reappearance on the show floor. Read the rest of this entry »