Chicago Auto Show opens to public today

February 10, 2012

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The 104th Chicago Auto Show opens to the public Friday. It claims to be the largest auto show in North America and uses 1.2 million square feet of the McCormick Place complex.

Spokesman Paul Brian said the event has wide appeal, though he wouldn't release attendance numbers.

"From the car buyer, to the car fantasy buyer, to the family that's looking for something to do on a mid-winter's day," Brian said.

The show will feature nearly 1,000 vehicles. Among the 19 cars set to have their production debut is a new Ford Fusion, a BMW hybrid, a MINI Roadster, a diesel Volkswagen Beetle and the reincarnation of the Dodge Dart.

Kathy Graham is a spokesperson for Dodge. She said the Dart's production is bringing 1,800 jobs to the Belvidere plant in Northern Illinois.

"For every job in the plant there's supplier plants around there. And it's kind of like when you plant a seed and things grow - there are other benefits to the local economy," Graham said. 

The Dart is the first compact sedan Dodge has made in seven years and is a collorative effort between Dodge and Fiat. The plant starts production this spring and Graham said the car should be available this summer.

She added there were other names in the running for this design, but ultimately focus groups said they liked the Dart's name even if it referenced an earlier model of a very different car.

Bo Puffer is with Chrysler and said the show is hugely important to sales.

"We will start to feel the effect really within a week of the show. Even during the show we will talk to our dealers and the foot traffic going into the dealership starts to increase the day the show starts," Puffer said.

The Chicago Auto Show closes on February 19th.

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