CHICAGO – Cadillac and Ford join the list of auto makers offering visitors to the Chicago auto show test drives or rides in their vehicles to attract potential buyers.

The show, to be held Feb. 9-18 at McCormick Place North and South, will feature three indoor test tracks and six outdoor courses along city streets – two more than last year – as Cadillac and Ford participate for the first time.

Chrysler initiated the indoor test tracks at the 2005 show by moving from the old McCormick Place along Lake Michigan to McCormick Place South, which provided twice the space.

Actually Chrysler updated an attraction at the first Chicago show held in 1901 in the old Chicago Coliseum: an indoor wooden track used to introduce the novelty of the horseless carriage that most visitors never had seen before, much less driven in.

One of Chrysler’s indoor tracks is a Jeep course complete with a climbing hill to spotlight the off-road skills of the Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Compass and Patriot.

The other has a few twists and curves for rides in the Chrysler 200 and 300 sedans, Town & Country minivan, Dodge Charger and Challenger sports sedans and economy Dodge Dart compact sedan, as well as the mini Fiat 500 Abarth and Sport coupes from Chrysler's Italian partner.

Outside, Cadillac will feature a trio of all-wheel-drive vehicles, including the new compact entry-level ATS sedan, new fullsize flagship XTS sedan and midsize SRX cross/utility vehicle. Ford will present the Focus and Fusion sedans, Explorer SUV and F-150 fullsize pickup.

Hyundai will have its premium Equus and Genesis sedan and coupe, Veloster turbo, Azera and Sonata gas and hybrid sedans, plus the Santa Fe and Tucson CUVs.

Kia offerings will include the Optima in gas and hybrid versions, and Sorento and Soul CUVs. Nissan will feature its Leaf battery-electric vehicle and redesigned Pathfinder SUV, along with its midsize Altima sedan and refreshed compact Sentra sedan. Subaru will field its redesigned Forester compact CUV.

Dave Sloan, president of the Chicago Automobile Trade Assn. that sponsors the show, says test rides serve one of the most difficult tasks in making a sale: getting people in the cabin to check out the vehicle. 

"Last year Chrysler alone said it had more than 80,000 visitors in its vehicles, a huge number," he says.