Road Ahead

Detroit, Not Chicago, Scores Tractor Unveiling


Sears chose the Detroit auto show, instead of Chicago, for the Craftsman CTX tractor unveiling because its January timing aligned well with its arrival at stores the following month, and the media presence certainly was a factor.

Lawn tractors rarely are on our radar as auto writers, but we couldn’t help but notice the three shiny black Craftsman CTX riding mowers occupying prime real estate in the lobby of Cobo Center last month during Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.

Truly, a lawn tractor in Detroit in January is about as useful as a snowplow in July. Still, Sears, owner of the Craftsman brand, got some decent coverage from the Detroit outing for the all-new CTX, on sale as of this month at Sears stores.

And the sign at the front of the exhibit explained the connection to the auto show: “With the automotive-inspired elements of the new CTX Series, we thought it only made sense to show it here – the first ever tractor at the Detroit auto show,” the sign read. “Only from Craftsman. Exclusively at Sears.”

I figured the CTX tractor would make the circuit of all the big U.S. auto shows this year, especially in Chicago, home to the Sears Tower. Sears headquarters are in suburban Hoffman Estates.

But I was disappointed that the tractor was nowhere to be found amid the 2.6 million sq.-ft. of Chicago’s magnificent McCormick Place.

I also found this rather amusing because the auto shows in Detroit and Chicago have developed a snarky rivalry, and Chicago show organizers have been more than happy to call attention to Detroit’s shortcomings over the past 20 years.

The pitch from the Chicago folks usually plays up their superior hotels and night life, as well as exhibit space that, after continued expansion, quadruples the room available in Detroit’s tired and outdated Cobo Center.

Those points are valid. Detroit doesn’t have many opportunities to one-up Chicago in just about any competition, although the Motor City draws throngs of journalists from around the world to its auto show while the Windy City does not.

So one might expect the NAIAS crew to rub Chicago’s nose in the fact that Sears chose Detroit as the venue for its tractor unveiling, instead of its hometown.

But no, the NAIAS PR crew stuck to the high road, refusing to speculate as to why Sears chose not to participate in the Chicago show.

Sears spokesman Larry Costello says the Craftsman brand already is well known in its hometown through events such as the Craftsman Experience in downtown Chicago.

The Detroit show was chosen for the CTX unveiling because its January timing aligned well with its arrival at stores the following month, and the media presence certainly was a factor, Costello says.

The “official” count suggests 5,196 journalists from 61 countries covered the Detroit show.

In the meantime, the New York International Auto Show runs from April 6-15 at the Javits Center in Manhattan. No word yet on whether the Craftsman tractor will be on display.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

on Feb 16, 2012

Be that as it may Tom, I decided to venture out to the Chicago autoshow with a customer last weekend. I went to the NAIAS around 6-7 years ago at Cobo. As much as I love a lot of things in Detroit and it pains me to say this...the venue is so much better in Chicago. Even on a Saturday, you're not shoulder-2-shoulder with people. The layout, the displays, test tracks, etc. This Michigander will definitely making the trip 4 hours west again.

on Feb 16, 2012

I certainly can't argue with that point. It's a good thing Chicago is so closeby: Without it, there would be no pressure on Detroit to stop the regional back-biting and come together to build a truly world-class facility, worthy of its world-class auto show. Improvements have been discussed since the Carter admin. Sad truth is, there isn't much money for such a project.

on Feb 16, 2012

I guess I can't argue with that either. I just wonder how much money the city of Detroit has spent on the upkeep of Cobo (leaky roof, etc.) in comparison to building a new hall/convention center. That, and the constant rumor that the NAIAS could be moved to that expo center out in Novi (always a dull threat, but I wonder if the size is any different).

Eric Mayne (not verified)
on Feb 17, 2012

McCormick is impressive. But is there anything in the world that can match the Messe in Frankfurt?

on Feb 17, 2012

I'll have to put the Messe on my bucket list.

on Feb 20, 2012

Frankfurt Messe is another beast entirely. You need running shoes for that show. Making your way through it is like walking across the world's largest university campus. But it's definitely worth the trip. Show is held in September, so the weather is often nice, if not too warm. They grill brats, and a good beer is always within reach.

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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