Uncertain Times Subdue Chicago Auto Show

An absence of the typical over-the-top showmanship marked this year’s Chicago Auto Show, where automakers warned that another tough year lies ahead.

“It is not going to be an easy year for our industry,” General Motors North America pres ident Gary Cowger said during his pre sen tation. “Uncertainty still seems to be the common denominator.”

Eschewing the usual stunts and fanfare that mark the show, the car makers this year took a straight forward approach in showing their latest models. Executives from both GM and Ford Motor Co. said their focus for the year will be on product development as they try to entice a tightfisted public. GM alone will launch 16 new or dramatic ally remod eled vehicles in 2002, Cowger said.

GM will also expand efforts to widen its audience with marketing directed at women and minorities, Cow ger said.

Several auto makers unveiled new marketing efforts at the show. Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America is set to break new print work from Deutsch, Los Angeles, in March issues of enthusiast magazines, including Motor Trend, Car and Driver and Road & Track, said Greg O’Neill, the automaker’s executive vice president and gen eral manager.

The executions will feature a day in the life of a typical Mitsubishi owner and his vehicle. About 40 percent of people who own Mitsubishis are under age 35, he said.

“We’re trying to [get] that energy, which is always difficult to do in print, that you see in the commercials,” O’Neill said.

Mitsubishi in Japan has adopted Deutsch’s U.S. campaign—themed “Spirited cars for spirited people”—for branding globally, and work from Deutsch is now breaking overseas in markets that include Thailand and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Chrysler has dev eloped a Valentine’s Day effort around the brand’s tagline, “Drive= Love.”