Domestic Automakers Flex Their Muscle at Chicago Auto Show

Chevrolet's SEMA Show project cars on display.

The OEM auto show season is well under way, and the media was recently treated to many vehicle unveilings during the Chicago Auto Show press days. The theme for this year’s show seemed more geared toward performance compared to the “green” scene—i.e., electric vehicles, hybrids, clean diesels and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that were more prevalent at the Los Angeles and Detroit Auto Shows.

In addition, the show floor was peppered with several customized vehicles and project cars that had been at the 2008 SEMA Show, giving consumers the chance to see how the specialty-equipment industry can transform the newly unveiled production vehicles into objects of personalization.

Enthusiasts, in fact, pick auto shows as one of their information sources when researching and buying performance parts and accessories. Around 37% of enthusiasts surveyed by SEMA for the Automotive Lifestyles Study said that car shows (although not just OEM shows) are venues that serve as education on the latest specialty automotive accessories. Enthusiasts were surveyed during August–September of 2008.

2010 Ford Taurus SHO

The press preview days during the Chicago Auto Show began with Ford taking the wraps off its high-performance Taurus SHO, with its 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine, which Ford said “delivers V8 levels of power at an estimated 365 hp, without compromising its V-6 fuel economy.”

Prior to bringing out the SHO, however, Ford showed several customized versions of its Transit Connect commercial vehicle and the business owners that took delivery of these vehicles specifically outfitted for their individual business needs. 

Customized Ford Transit Connect

Both the Taurus SHO modern musclecar and the Transit Connect offer enthusiasts and business owners alike vehicles that lend themselves to customization, albeit for two complete opposite purposes: work and pleasure.

Chevrolet Camaro “Bumblebee” Transformer

General Motors took a different approach in showing the media its latest vehicle offerings by bringing out four of its new cars that will serve as characters in the upcoming Transformers movie. A custom version of the Spark subcompact and Corvette Stingray concepts were among the cars used to wow the media during its press conference.

GM also went on to say that upon the release of the first Transformers movie, which heavily promoted its Camaro concept via another movie character, awareness of the new Camaro jumped 97% soon after the movie was released.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Concept

Chevrolet Spark

The third domestic automaker focused on a different market during their press conference: the heavy-duty pickup segment of consumers. Dodge unveiled its 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, which they emphasized is the first version to have a crew-size cab model.

The pickup comes with either a 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel or 5.7L Hemi V8 with the Heavy Duty 3500 offering towing capability at 18,500 lbs. Dodge also mentioned that while 66% of heavy-duty pickup owners opt for the diesel version, around 90% of Dodge customers go diesel.

2010 F-150 SVT Raptor

Aside from the domestic automaker press conferences, several custom renditions of new vehicles were spread out throughout the show floor. Several Chevrolet project cars from the 2008 SEMA Show were present. Ford showed off its 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor alongside a video game simulator for showgoers to experience the drivability of the truck.

Suzuki showed three customized Equator pickups, and several more examples of customization were displayed throughout the Chicago Auto Show, giving mainstream consumers an up-close look at vehicle personalization.

Customized Suzuki Equator pickups by 4-Wheel & Off-Road and Off-Road magazine

Chevrolet Silverado “Yacht Club HD” by RealWheels Corporation

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