By Jeff Gilbert

CHICAGO — (WWJ) The big Chicago Auto Show getting underway with hopes for better sales and more auto industry jobs.

“This is really all about getting people into cars, selling vehicles to them, and building off of the buzz that we’ve seen at other shows,” says Aaron Bragman, an analyst with IHS Automotive.

VIDEO: Jeff Gilbert’s report from the Chicago Auto Show.

Bragman said the Chicago show is transitioning from being a media oriented show, like Detroit, to being a show aimed directly at consumers. More than a million people are expected at McCormick Place during the show’s one week run.

New products unveiled include a new 650 horsepower Shelby GT-500 Mustang, coupe and GT variations on the Hyundai Elantra, and an updated GMC Acadia crossover.

GM also rolled out a high end “Denali” trim of the Acadia.

“Denali is growing like crazy. Denali is up to 30 percent of the Acadia volume right now,” said GMC marketing director Tony DiSalle. “It’s quite frankly about 60 percent of Yukon volume.”

The 2013 GMC Acadia will also be GM’s first use of a new center air bag, aimed at protecting occupants from striking each other in a side impact crash.

Toyota used the show to announce that it’s moving production of its Highlander Hybrid to the company’s Princeton, Indiana plant. That includes a $400 million investment, and 400 new jobs.

Toyota could even export some of those vehicles to other markets. Exporting vehicles from the U.S. has been a new trend for Toyota. But, North America President Yoshi Inaba said it’s not a master strategy, but the result of doing more production in the United States.

“There are so many North America specific products that can fit in other markets as well,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Toyota announced the addition of a third shift at their new Mississippi plant. But, the company is not looking to add other plants.

“It’s a little too early,” he said. “But, there is always a chance, as we grow, as the market grows, there is always a chance to localize.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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