Although Chicago is famous for its blues musicians like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy, and clubs dedicated to this all-American art form, there won't be any mournful songs along the lines of: "Woke up this mornin', went down to the Chicago Auto Show." Not this year.
The auto industry is riding into the 2012 Chicago Auto Show this February with the favorable wind from Detroit at its back. Chrysler has posted a profit for the first time since 1997 and General Motors has returned to its position as the world's number one carmaker. The Windy City's annual event - the largest in the country, with more than a million square feet of exhibition space and a similar number of attendees expected - is still considered to be important, even if Motown's big bash happened only a month ago.
One of the reasons is that much of the available space can be used for show stands more interesting than the usual rotating plinth. Last year, Toyota mocked up a construction site with scaffolding, piles of sand and concrete blocks for its Tundra and Tacoma pickups to negotiate. The Chevrolet Volt, still a novelty in 2011, drove around an area of ersatz suburbia complete with floral borders. Show-goers could get behind the wheel in these and other manufacturers' stands, so we look forward to seeing what this year will bring.
Although not an indoor test track, Scion's "Thunderdome" represents a departure from what the marque has been doing for many auto shows over the past five years. Gone is the huge stacked display case (which was getting pretty old), and in its place are separate zones for each Scion car, with video walls, giant LCD screens and "an enhanced sound system." The star of this larger-than-usual stand will be the all-new 2013 Scion FR-S - the 200-hp, rear-drive compact coupe.
A coupe from another company will be making its world debut in Chicago: the 2012 Hyundai Elantra Coupe. The sedan took the title of 2012 North American Car of the Year at Detroit, so this two-door comes from good stock. It's expected to have the same 1.8-liter engine but its own trim level.
Things really do happen in threes. The third coupe to make a splash in Chi-town is the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI. Yes, the new New Beetle is going to be available with VW's well-respected 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine. When powering the Jetta, this unit is good for 43 mpg on the highway.
There's also a veritable truckload of trucks set for a mid-West launch. The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser is one of them. The Land Cruiser is one of the top choices for off-roading types around the world; it's been in the United States for more than 50 years. This generation receives a mid-cycle refreshment with a new nose, new equipment and some tweaks around the cabin before going on sale in the spring.
Another mid-cycle update on show is the 2013 GMC Acadia crossover, while over at the Ram stand is a new range-topping model. It's the 2012 Ram Laramie Limited, designed - said Fred Diaz, president and CEO of Ram - "to meet the high expectations of affluent pickup buyers looking to combine capability with elegance."
The Laramie keeps exterior badging to a low profile, but piles on the leather and piano black trim accents inside. Equipment levels are high, and a buyer would expect the front seats to be heated, but so are the rear seats and the steering wheel.
Such appointments are most welcome to Chicagoans if they make their way over to McCormick Place between February 10 and February 19. More information is available at www.chicagoautoshow.com.
AutoTrader.com will be reporting from the 2012 Chicago Auto Show's press days, February 8 and 9.