Puma-Auto Show: Big Hopes For Small Cars

Buyers look for fuel efficiency

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 10:06 AM CDT
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You have no idea how big McCormick Place is until you walk it end to end.

Come here for the Chicago Auto Show and that’s what you’ll do, over and over again. That’s a good thing.

There are almost a thousand vehicles on more than a million square feet. Everything from the Porsche Panamera to a collection of Airstream trailers is on display here -- but looking at the floor, you see a definite trend toward economy and eco-friendliness.
 
Chevrolet is showcasing its Volt plug-in electric car set to debut later this year. They're also showcasing the upcoming Aveo RS, which is expected to compete with fuel-efficient imports from Honda and Toyota.
 
Getting even more fuel-efficient is high on Toyota’s agenda. As the embattled Japanese automaker works through recall problems, they're showing off the FT-CH compact hybrid concept, a green hatchback is 20 inches shorter than the Prius.
 
“People are looking at hybrids and electric vehicles,” says Auto Show Chairman John Phelan, “there seems to be a pent up demand.”
 
Ford is rolling out its new electric version of the Transit Connect delivery van along with a version that will burn liquid natural gas. The company says the simple, small truck has been a big hit with fleet customers. It is hoping a new Taxi version will be as popular with cabbies.
 
Nancy Cravens is at the show to shop for a new car. “I’ve done my research online,” she says, “now I want to come out and see these cars for myself.” Nancy says her car has to have a sunroof and a solid feel to it. “Nissans and Toyotas are willing,” she says, “but the Kias don’t look to bad."
 
While their parents are looking, kids can play. Most automakers are making an effort to make the show family friendly. Jeep is back with its popular test track. It even has a mini version with tiny electric cars that kids can drive themselves. Ford has a driving simulator and a giant foosball table. A number of manufacturers have XBOX 360 kiosks that let you drive their car on a virtual version of a real racetrack.
 
Jonesing to see all this in person? Map out your visit at Chicagoautoshow.com.

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