Put on your Judgy-Pants: Really, Chicago? An auto show during a pandemic?

Put on your Judgy-Pants: Really, Chicago? An auto show during a pandemic?
Honda shows off the 2020 Civic Type R the Chicago Auto Show on February 06, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.  Scott Olson / Getty

Now here you go again/ You say you want your freedom

Well, who am I to keep you down? — Fleetwood Mac

Many, many of us are missing auto shows. The buzz, the noise, the shiny, the new, the amazing, the crowds — oh yeah, the crowds. Setting up a great shot with your camera, and some little ankle-biter jumps in front of it at the last second. Dragging your spouse along with you whether they like it or not. Realizing after you’ve definitely settled on getting a new Camry, you spy some early tease of what the next model year will bring. Auto shows: where you go to dream.

Well, Chicago has announced it will bring it all back this year, pandemic be damned. Taking up about half of the million square feet of the cavernous McCormick Place, a little south of downtown Chicago, the show is among the first to venture forward in the age of coronavirus, and definitely the first in North America. (Detroit has announced plans for its North American International Auto Show to run later this year, September 24 to October 9.)

Toronto, Montreal auto shows going completely online during pandemic

Chicago organizers have announced a run from July 15 to 19, letting 10,000 people at a time past the ropes. They explain that gives each attendee 47 square feet of social-distanced goodness. Yeah. ‘Cause that’s how it works.

Yes, vaccinations are continuing at a blistering pace in the U.S., and many other countries. Travel will no doubt open up for many. But would you go? Millions of Americans are skipping their second doses, and we’ve now been told herd immunity is not likely to happen with COVID-19 and all its variants.

But who am I to keep you down? Auto shows were already on the wane before the pandemic, with more and more manufacturers realizing it wasn’t such a great investment for the huge layout of resources, and limiting the number of shows they attended, or avoiding them all. The loss of the shows has a huge impact on their immediate areas; Detroit lost US$500 million cancelling in 2020, and even Geneva is struggling to recover. But two months from now, really Chicago?
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