Perhaps a sign of the slowly rebounding U.S. market, more auto makers will hold test-drive programs for their new vehicles at the Chicago Auto Show this year than last.
The Feb. 10-19 show in McCormick Place North and South will have test tracks for consumers to ride as passengers in, Dodge and cars, Jeep SUVs and Ram trucks, as well as Prius and Camry cars and Highlander hybrid cross/utility vehicles inside the show.
Meanwhile,, Kia, , Subaru and will let consumers slip behind the wheel and drive cars with a company representative riding along as a passenger on courses set up outside McCormick Place.
Among models available for a spin will be the Chevrolet Volt; Kia Optima (gas and hybrid), Soul and Rio;Leaf; Subaru Impreza, Legacy, Forester and Outback; and Veloster, Tucson, Sonata (gas and hybrid), Equus and Genesis R.
initiated the test tracks in 2005 when the show moved from cramped quarters with about 600,000 sq.-ft. (55,740 sq.-m) in the old McCormick Place along Lake Michigan, to the more spacious facility with more than 1.2 million sq.-ft. (111,500 sq.-m) across the street.
But the idea actually is more than 100 years old, because the very first Chicago Auto Show in the old Chicago Coliseum in 1901 featured an indoor wooden track for manufacturers to take visitors on spins in the new machines that were to replace the horse.
Dave Sloan, president of the Chicago Automobile Trade Assn. that sponsors the show, says test drives benefit consumers, dealers and the auto makers because they go beyond slamming doors and slipping onto seats; they contribute to the buying decision and the show is designed to help sell cars.
Sloan says if more auto makers want to offer test drives as part of the show, he'll welcome their participation.
“We'll always find room,” he says.