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Auto shows are back! (Kind of) Chicago Auto Show announces 2021 dates

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Chicago Auto Show

The entry of the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, which was the last major auto show before the pandemic caused national lockdowns. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

This morning, the Chicago Auto Show announced it would return for 2021 with an abbreviated showing and small change in location. It will still be at McCormick Place, but it moves to the West Building to take better advantage of outdoor space.

The show, which is traditionally in February, has moved its dates for 2021 to July 15 to 19 – a Thursday through a Monday.

Why does Pickup Truck + SUV Talk care about a Chicago show? Well, thing one: It’ll be the first major auto show as we come out of the pandemic. But thing two – and this is a biggie: Chicago is usually the location where trucks and SUVs are launched and showcased. It is the largest consumer show in the U.S. and it has several test tracks and opportunities for people to do actual test drives – without the dealer pressure.

Vehicle reveals we’ve seen at the Chicago Auto Show include the 2018 Toyota Tundra, the Mopar-modified 2019 Ram 2500 HD, the refreshed 2020 Toyota Tacoma, the 2017 Nissan Titan King Cab and the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe – among many, many others.

So, yes, this is a BFD.

And since Toyota often puts in big showing at Chicago, a small part of us wonders if this might be the perfect venue for the automaker to launch something like, say, a 2022 Tundra. While we don’t know too much about the new format of the show yet, we do know there will be at least one media day on July 14.

The Chicago Auto Show folks have confirmed Camp Jeep will return with its indoor test track, Subaru will be there with its puppy adoption event, and Ford will be taking advantage of the outdoor space to feature experiences with the Bronco, Bronco Sport and Mustang Mach-E.

To comply with COVID restrictions in the state, the ticketing process will be completely electronic, and show goers will sign up for a specific timed entrance. Additionally, rather than waiting in long lines for some of the cool activities (like the Jeep test track), attendees will sign up online for a time slot to diminish congestion within exhibits.

The bottom line on the 2021 Chicago Auto Show

As we’ve previously discussed, we firmly believe auto shows must survive – not for the media and news aspect, but for the consumers themselves. The ability to see (and potentially drive!) multiple vehicles back-to-back-to-back greatly aids the car-buying process and is invaluable to busy families who just want to figure out where their strollers and diaper bags are going to go – without schlepping them all over town.

While the Chicago Auto Show will likely return to February for 2022, this is going to be an interesting model for what follows for the LA Auto Show, set to return in November.

Plus, the digital tickets and activation sign ups may be things we keep post-COVID. I mean, who has time to wait in lines, anyway?

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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