The Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA), the area’s new-car dealer association and producer of the Chicago Auto Show, successfully concluded Chicago Drives Electric—its first-ever electric vehicle experiential test drive and educational event. Due to the event’s overwhelming success among EV intenders, organizers plan to bring Chicago Drives Electric indoors to the 2023 Chicago Auto Show this February, 11-20, at McCormick Place.
In alignment with National Drive Electric week, Chicago Drives Electric aimed to raise awareness of the many benefits of all-electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles and help consumers understand how EVs can fit individual needs and lifestyles. Featured brands and vehicles included: Alfa Romeo Tonale; Chrysler Pacifica PHEV; Chevrolet Bolt EV; Chevrolet Bolt EUV; Ford F-150 Lightning; Ford Mustang Mach-E; Ford E-transit; Hyundai IONIQ 5; Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV; Hyundai Tucson PHEV; Hyundai Kona EV; Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV; Jeep Wrangler 4xe PHEV; Kia EV6; Volkswagen ID.4; Volvo C40 Recharge; Volvo XC40 Recharge; Volvo XC60 Recharge PHEV; and Volvo XC90 Recharge PHEV.
The event kicked off with a media day co-hosted by the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). Over 65 MAMA members attended along with additional broadcast media to cover the event. Alfa Romeo kicked off the day with a presentation by Larry Dominique, Senior VP and Head of Alfa Romeo on the new Tonale. Immediately following was a presentation from Escalent Research's KC Boyce regarding the state of the EV Revolution. Two informative panel discussions and a lunch presentation from Cars.com were also part of the day's activities. Journalists were able to get behind the wheel of the aforementioned vehicles for some direct EV comparisons. Following media day, Chicagoland new car dealers and consumers were invited to attend the rest of Chicago Drives Electric.
In addition to putting interested parties behind the wheel of some of the latest EVs, event organizers brought in a variety of experts to help break down the various aspects of EV ownership and tackle complex topics such as range anxiety; at-home charging solutions; on-the-go charging and infrastructure; tax credits and incentives; and where people can begin their search. On-hand experts included Cars.com, Charge Enterprises, ComEd and Powering Chicago.
Organizers anticipated a range of 750-1,000 attendees. Over the course of the weekend, the event netted 947 total registered drivers and nearly 3,000 in-vehicle experiences, surpassing expectations. The buzz generated from the event carried over to social media; Chicago Drives Electric reached 4.5 million, according to initial results from media measurement firm Meltwater.
“We invited previous Chicago Auto Show ticket purchasers, in the form of one email, to preregister for their preferred date and two-hour timeslot,” said CATA Chairman JC Phelan. “We were shocked to find all the timeslots filled overnight! The response and interest were overwhelming, in a very good way, which is why we’re looking to enhance our indoor EV track at the Chicago Auto Show and incorporate elements of Chicago Drives Electric including consumer education and resources.”
“We’re planning to triple the size of our indoor EV track, adding more brands and vehicles, and building out the surrounding area with educational exhibits and panel discussions featuring industry experts,” said Chicago Auto Show Co-General Manager Jennifer Morand. “All of that rich content will translate well to social media where we’ll take in-person panel discussions and broadcast them live on our Facebook and Instagram channels, create educational Instagram Reels and TikTok videos, and partner with key influencers in the space to take over our social media channels throughout the show.”
“Chicago Drives Electric validated to us the public’s enthusiasm to further their knowledge about EVs,” continued Morand. “There are many complexities associated with the topic, which is why personal service and education is needed now more than ever, and the Chicagoland new-car dealers are dedicated to assisting consumers in their EV journey.”
According to the 2022 EVForward Dealer DeepDive study by independent analytics firm Escalent, the dealership will remain a pivotal part of an EV intender's shopping experience. The DeepDive survey found that 74 percent of respondents prefer to buy an EV at a dealership, rather than from an auto manufacturer or third party. This research proves that the franchise dealership model works just as well for EVs as it does for traditional vehicles.
“The Chicagoland dealers have been behind the Chicago Auto Show for nearly a century, and we are so proud to lead the way in this EV revolution into the future,” said Phelan. “This next stage of EV adoption will look more like getting average consumers into mass-market vehicles they depend on to get to work and manage family life. Dealers will remain critical in this process to bring EVs to scale.”