Buddy Lo
Buddy Lo is an Automotive Analyst at Mintel. He is responsible for researching and writing reports on the automotive industry in the US.

As the allure and hype around autonomous systems and connectivity features heavily promoted at last year’s Chicago Auto Show have grown stale, brands have returned their focus on showcasing the driving performance of their vehicles to appeal to visitors at this year’s 2018 Chicago Auto Show. The Chicago Auto Show is the largest auto show in the world in both square footage and attendance, and some brands have opted to use indoor test tracks to showcase their products.

  • Toyota offered a test track where attendees could take a ride with professional drivers in Toyota’s V6 Camry XSE. The “Camry Thrill Ride” included a short straightaway to showcase the vehicle’s formidable acceleration and responsive braking, as well as an area where the professional driver performs a “Bond-like” J-turn that is sure to appeal to the performance- and handling-minded car shopper.
  • Jeep brought back their Jeep Camp from last year to give attendees a taste of the off-road performance Jeep is known for. The course is an extension of the no-frills Super Bowl commercial “Anti-Manifesto,” which featured a single shot of a 2-door Jeep Wrangler effortlessly cross a river and climb the rugged river bank.
  • Kia is the newest brand with a test track to show off its Sportage and Sorrento crossovers on an urban obstacle course. The course won’t match the intensity of Jeep’s off-roading capabilities, but it doesn’t need to since Kia isn’t trying to make off-roading a selling point of their cars. Off the track, attendees can get a close-up look at the newly released Kia Stinger, Kia’s entry in the sports sedan segment and winner of Motorweeks’ 2018 Best of the Year Award. The Stinger also got some air time during the Super Bowl that featured Steven Tyler recapture his youth after a lap in the Stinger.
  • The automotive racing scene has always been an avenue to tap to gain performance credibility, and Hyundai announced its partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport alongside the “N” performance line for its cars. Hyundai’s exhibit also features a Forza racing video game simulator where attendees can compete over who has the fastest virtual lap time in a virtual Hyundai Veloster N. Drivers with the fastest lap times will have a chance to take home a brand new Xbox One and a copy of the newest Forza racing video game.

Autonomous technology and connectivity features still had a place at the Chicago Auto Show, but it is clear brands are turning to driving performance to convince car shoppers to consider their brands in a tech saturated market. Unless a brand has a breakthrough and can showcase a superior level of autonomous capabilities, brands will rely on what initially made them successful: their driving performance.