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Tara Lachapelle/MEDILL

Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, presents the 2011 Edge at the media preview for the 2010 Chicago Auto Show.

Ford overshadows rivals at Chicago Auto Show kickoff

by Tara Lachapelle and Daniel Platt
Feb 10, 2010

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Tara Lachapelle/MEDILL

Ford presented its Transit Connect Taxi, which can use cost-cutting propane or compressed natural gas.

Ford Motor Co. stole the spotlight at Wednesday’s media preview of the 2010 Chicago Auto Show, building on its strong start to the year by introducing new innovations as well as revamped versions of existing models.

In contrast, General Motors Corp. focused on building back its brand after last summer’s bankruptcy, and Toyota Motor Co. continued to address safety concerns on the heels of its recent recalls.

Ford showcased its 2011 crossover vehicles, the Edge and Edge Sport. “The crossover segment was one of fastest growing segments in the industry,” Mark Fields, president of the Americas for Ford, said.

Ford’s new EcoBoost engine makes its debut in the Edge, but will also be offered in the 2011 Explorer, which will be produced in its Chicago assembly plant.

The company put on an elaborate display as it unveiled a new electric delivery truck that doesn’t use gas, as well as a taxi version, which allows for using either compressed natural gas or propane.

Toyota’s presentation lacked the same enthusiasm, with its recent recalls tempering the mood of its display of the redesigned 2011 Avalon. Toyota Group Vice President Bob Carter spent the greater part of his talk on the progress of the recalls and the company’s continued focus on safety.

Carter said the company has reinforced accelerator pedals on 220,000 vehicles, and dealerships nationwide are fixing an average of 50,000 recalled vehicles a day.

Toyota continues a poor start to the year. The Japanese automaker’s sales dropped 15.8 percent in January from the same month last year.

Across the exhibition floor, American makers GM and Chrysler Group LLC saw more modest gains. GM’s sales increased 14.1 percent, while Chrysler saw an 8.1 percent decline from January 2009. Ford’s sales rose 25 percent.

Ford is riding the momentum of its 2009 earnings where the company swung to a profit of $2.7 billion in 2009 from a loss of $14.8 billion a year earlier.

The auto industry enters this year’s auto show with more optimism than in 2009. Light vehicle sales in the U.S. rose 6.3 percent in January from the year-earlier period, while passenger cars saw a 15.4 percent bump, hinting at signs of recovery.

The show opens to the public Friday at McCormick Place and runs through Feb. 21. Tickets are $11 for adults, $7 for seniors and children between the ages of 7-12, and admission is free for children under 7 with a paying adult. Show information and a link to purchase tickets can be found at