Chicago Auto Show Reflects Optimistic Mood of Industry

The upbeat mood of this year’s Chicago Auto Show stands in stark contrast with the gloom that hung over many similar events as recently as a year ago. Although many challenges lay ahead, the overwhelming sentiment is that the industry as a whole has weathered the storms of the past couple of years and is now stronger, smarter and more in-tune with what its customers really want.

Korean automaker Kia Motor Company grabbed headlines with its Track’ster concept vehicle. The Track’ster is a performance coupe version of Kia’s popular Soul which was launched in 2010.  With a local cover band belting out a head-banger hit from the 80’s, Kia’s chief U.S. designer tom Kearns told reporters, “The Kia Soul was our original rock star. The Track’ster is the heavy metal version.”

Ford Motor Company also generated buzz with its 5.8-liter, V8- powered 2013 Shelby GT500. The new model outperforms the outgoing model by 100 horsepower. Despite the additional horses, Ford says that the more powerful GT500 doesn’t compromise its commitment to building more fuel efficient vehicles.

Executive director of global product development Hau Thai-Tang said, “What we are trying to do is deliver everything. We are a mass-market company.  We want to cover the broad spectrum of choice from fuel efficiency, hybrids all the way up to iconic super sports cars.”

Hyundai has chosen the Chicago Auto Show to debut new sport coupe and hatchback versions of its popular Elantra compact car. According to John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai North America, both versions will be built in Korea. The company built 338,000 vehicles at its Montgomery, Alabama plant last year.

GMC unveiled an updated Acadia crossover and a refreshed version of the Acadia Denali. Vice president of marketing for GMC and Buick Tony DiSalle said he anticipates higher demand for the GMC Acadia crossover in 2012. The Acadia was introduced in 2007, and has gone on to become one of the most profitable vehicles in GM’s product line. According to DiSalle, more than 30 percent of Acadia sales have been for the more feature-rich and higher priced Denali version.

The Chicago Auto Show runs through February 19 at the McCormick Place complex.

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