Despite falling vehicle sales, non-existent profits, potential plant closings and layoffs, the Chicago Auto Show will add 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space next year.
The dealer-sponsored show was squeezed into 680,000 sq. ft. of space when held in Lakeside Center. It expanded to 840,000 sq. ft. when it moved to McCormick Place South in 1997 and to 1.2 million sq.-ft. by stretching out into the North Hall this year.
It will grow to 1.3 million sq. ft. in 2006.
“Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Toyota, Lexus, Infiniti and Suzuki all wanted more exhibit space for next year's show,” says Jerry Cizek, president of the Chicago Automobile Trade Assn., which represents more than 700 Chicago area new-car dealers and sponsors of the annual show.
And there's another 50,000 sq. ft. of unused space that could be added if needed.
Cizek says the expansion, coming at a time when vehicle sales are weak, shouldn't be surprising. “The show is a way for the manufacturers to draw attention to their products and show people they have their hopes up for those products,” he says.
“When they cut back on the size of their displays, or drop their display, it sends the wrong message to consumers,” he adds, referring to Isuzu Motors Ltd., which a few weeks ago pulled out of the Chicago and Detroit shows in a cost-cutting move.
Chrysler Group is a major driver of the expansion. It is mum on what it plans as an encore to its successful test-drive program this year that offered visitors brief rides around on- and off-road courses in McCormick Place South.
The exhibit was so popular, many visitors waited hours for a few minutes in the auto maker's cars, trucks and SUVs.
To accommodate Chrysler, General Motors Corp. has agreed to move Cadillac, Hummer and Saab into the North Hall, along with the luxury imports. And to handle the GM move, the accessory and food vendors in the North Hall are moving into an adjacent room.