Chicago Auto Show Set to Return in July

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
chicago auto show set to return in july

The 2020 Chicago Auto Show was, as far this author knows, the last major auto show to take place before COVID shut the world down.

Now, it might be the first auto show to return.

Don’t just take it from us. Take it from Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot (D).

The @ChiAutoShow is back July 15-19 at @McCormick_Place.

While this marks the first large convention to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we expect to welcome other conventions and tourist events this summer with safety precautions.

See you there.

— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) May 4, 2021

The show will be modified, of course. Not only is it taking place over a shorter schedule of five days, but it will only use McCormick Place’s West Hall and much of it will be moved outside. Nearby Indiana Avenue will be used for consumer test drives.

(Full disclosure: I did some work for the organization that runs the show prior to my time at TTAC, and have guested on their radio program to talk cars during my time here.)

Ford will have an outdoor display for the Mustang Mach-E EV crossover, Bronco Sport crossover, and the full-size Bronco SUV.

Not only that, but Indiana Ave. might also be used to host food stands and entertainment.

Attendees will be able to pre-register for test drives and other outdoor events, in a bid to minimize crowding and time spent in line.

“We’ve been working with McCormick Place officials for months on an opening plan, and very early on they saw that our show may provide a pathway to re-opening the facility,” Chicago Auto Show General Manager Dave Sloan said in a statement. “We stand committed to providing a safe environment for all involved and will carefully adhere to the health and safety protocols and guidelines set forth by city and state officials. McCormick Place is an important economic engine for our city and state, and we take very seriously the responsibility that comes with helping to get it running again.”

Attendance will be limited to 10,000 people at any one time. Attendees will have to buy tickets online, arrive at a set time, and leave after a maximum of four hours at the show.

Right now, Chicago’s COVID restrictions limit conventions and conferences taking place in large indoor venues — like McCormick Place — to either 25 percent capacity or 250 people, whichever is fewer. However, Chicago is expected to join the rest of Illinois in the so-called “bridge” phase of reopening soon. Capacity would then be raised to 60 percent or 1,000 people, whichever is fewer.

Obviously, 1,000 is fewer than 10,000, but we confirmed with the auto-show folks that the limit is 10,000 on the floor “at any one time”. And that at that number, the show is under 30 percent capacity. It’s worth noting that 10K people is a maximum, and there could be a lot fewer people on the show floor at any given time.

The show’s move to July may or may not be for this year only, but it could be an interesting experiment.

“While we believe February is the right time for the Chicago Auto Show to have its biggest impact on the industry and the area economy, we’re thrilled to be able to experiment with the July dates,” Sloan said. “The timing has allowed us to get creative and try new things and the automakers have really embraced it.”

There was no mention of media days in the press release, but should the show host media days, expect them to be a day or two before the show opens to the public.

With the 2021 New York International Auto Show set for August, this makes Chicago the first of the big four American auto shows — Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles — to return, at least as far as we can tell.

There’s something poetic about the last show being the first as we (very slowly) move past the pandemic, I suppose.

[Image: Chicago Auto Show]

Join the conversation
2 of 7 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 04, 2021

    How about starting with the Hyundai Santa Cruz and the new Ford Maverick.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 05, 2021

    First picture: If they have Jeeps there, I probably can't afford to go.

  • Dwford What's next, your blender only spins slow unless you spend $5.99/month for the "Puree Package?"
  • Jeff S We have had so many article about gas wars. A lighter subject on gas wars might be the scene from Blazing Saddles where the cowboys were around the campfire and how their gas contributed to global warming or was it just natural gas.
  • Jeff S We all have issues some big and most not so big. Better to be alive and face the issues than to be dead and not have the opportunity to face them.
  • NJRide Now more than ever, the US needs a brand selling cheaper cars. I know the old adage that a "good used car" is the best affordable transportation, but there has to be someone willing to challenge the $45k average gas crossover or $60k electric one that has priced out many working and middle class people from the market. So I think Mitsu actually may be onto something. Call me crazy but I think if they came up with a decent sedan in the Civic space but maybe for $19-20k as opposed to $25 they might get some traction there's still some people who prefer a sedan.However, I just compared a Trailblazer on Edmunds to an Outlander Sport. Virtually same size, the Trailblazer has heated seats, keyless ignition and satellite radio and better fuel economy for almost same price as the Mitsu. Plus a fresher body and a normal dealer network. This has always been the challenge off brands have had. Mitsu probably would have to come in $2-3k less than the Chevy unless they can finance more readily to the subprime crowd.
  • MaintenanceCosts At least on the US West Coast, Waze is perfectly happy to send cut-through drivers down residential streets or to disregard peak-hour turn or travel restrictions. I hope if it's going to be standard equipment the company starts taking a more responsible approach.