The top 3 storylines from the 2019 Chicago Auto Show

February 12, 2019
4 min read

The Chicago Auto Show is one of the nation’s largest auto shows in terms of square footage and attendees. Given the space and number of attendees, the Chicago Auto Show is a key opportunity for brands to connect with potential car shoppers as well as previewing what’s next for the automotive industry. Here’s a glimpse of what’s to come this year and beyond from the Chicago Auto Show on media day:

Sedans continue to put up a fight

While much has been made of diminishing sedan sales in the face of increasing crossover and SUV sales, some brands chose media day to announce their new sedans, coupes and sports cars.

Subaru kicked off Media Day at the Chicago Auto Show, unveiling its redesigned 2020 Subaru Legacy. Subaru mentioned a stagnating sedan market in the US, but remained optimistic the new design will generate growth and excitement among US consumers. Subaru relied on its traditional strengths in its legacy messaging, focusing on safety, value and its’ “symmetrical all-wheel drive” system. The Japanese auto company also called out the advanced technology within the vehicle and its history manufacturing in the US.

Other brands showcasing their smaller cars were Volkswagen and Mazda. Volkswagen announced its 2019 Jetta GLI, a sportier powerful trim level for the Jetta, and shortly after, Mazda announced the 30th anniversary 2020 edition of its famed Miata. Volkswagen focused on the strengths of the Volkswagen brand, while Mazda touted the history of the Miata and the cult-like following it has amassed globally.

Ford invests in Chicago

Ford announced it will invest $1 billion into its Chicago manufacturing plant, which will add 500 jobs to the site. The plant will produce the newly redesigned Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator, and Police Interceptor Utility as well as the brand new Explorer Hybrid. Ford hopes the new design and Explorer Hybrid can generate a boost in interest, as the Explorer saw a 3.5% decline in sales in 2018 as competing models increased market share. Look for Ford to continue to tout its local manufacturing, which should resonate well with most car owners. Mintel research on SUV’s and Crossovers shows that six in 10 vehicle owners prefer to buy US made products and that percentage increases to three-fourths among “power seekers”, a profile of car shoppers Mintel has identified as most likely to purchase a new SUV.

Ford is also hoping their Explorer Hybrid reaches a new segment of car shoppers; consumers that would like to reduce emissions, save money on gas, but still want the cargo space and utility an SUV provides. As the vehicle supplier for the Chicago Police Department, Ford said its hybrid models should save Chicago over $9 million in fuel costs and hopes other cities take note of potential savings.

SUVs and Crossovers still dominate the show

Powerful SUVs and crossovers continued to take center stage for many brands at the Chicago Auto Show.

Kia Telluride

Toyota announced it would bring the “TRD Pro” trim line, Toyota’s high-performance off-road package, to the 2020 Toyota Sequoia. An understated segment of the announcement was Toyota introducing Android Auto into its Entune infotainment systems – a long awaited move from one of the last holdouts in the industry to incorporate Android Auto.

Kia showcased the Telluride, its big Super Bowl feature vehicle, front and center at their exhibit. The brand’s new three-row SUV should help it compete in the popular large SUV category, competing with the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander and other top models in the segment.

Nissan Pathfinder – Rock Creek Edition

Nissan announced the Rock Creek package for its Pathfinder, which adds quality exterior and interior styling, as well as a roof rack to entice the outdoorsy active car shopper. Opposite it’s new Pathfinder, Nissan introduced the 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport, seemingly to entice younger urban car shoppers. The “Sport” trim comes with a more aggressive exterior styling, but also comes with its complete advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) package, which offers both front and rear automatic braking. The 360 degrees of coverage should be enticing for drivers in dense urban areas.

Land Rover also made a big splash this year with its giant indoor course and the unveiling of the 2020 Land Rover Evoque, which will also come in a hybrid variant to the US later this year. Land Rover hailed not only the performance of their vehicles but also the advanced technology package in their lineup, which should appeal to wealthier urbanites and families.

Buddy Lo
Buddy Lo

Buddy Lo is a Senior. Technology and Consumer Electronics analyst at Mintel. He is responsible for researching and writing reports on technology and consumer electronics.

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