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Auto Show Officially Opens

UPDATED 02/11/11 11:16 a.m.

CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) -- The doors are open for the 103rd Chicago Auto Show, the nation's largest and longest-running automobile showcase.

As CBS 2's Susanna Song reports, hundreds of people had already packed into McCormick Place only an hour or so after the doors opened. Automakers say they tapped into the power of social media to bring people out.

Among the new offerings are the Audi TTRS, which was only being sold in Europe. But Americans begged Audi to introduce the car to the U.S. market after finding out about it on Facebook.

A variety of new models by 50 manufacturers and 200 exhibitors are on display, from new smart cars to a Prius concept car, and for families, more fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicles and vans with a trendier style and look.

For those not old enough to drive, there are also plenty of interactive exhibits, from a Jeep climbing wall to a driving simulator for kids.

Also, as WBBM Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts reports, never before have the curious had so many chances actually to drive a vehicle at the show.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts reports


While they are easily on the tamest of the courses, there are a handful of Chevy Volts plugged in and ready to go.

General Motors vice president of global design Ed Wellburn expects a line of people to want to test one.

"Volt is here. It's here in numbers, and it's here with a test track right here in the Auto Show," Wellburn said.

The other test tracks are considerably rougher. These include Camp Jeep, the tracks featuring the Fiat 500, and tracks for Toyota trucks and sport-utility vehicles and the Ford Explorer.

One couple looking to buy a car said their criteria were "style, color, performance, things like that; less the eco thing. A lot of the companies are doing those things anyway, and so it's already being built into most of the alignments."

Another man said he was looking for "utility, I guess, because I've got kids; and a more practical, conventional package."

The first Chicago Auto Show was held in 1901. It has been staged more times than any other North American auto show.

RELATED STORY: A Preview From CBS 2's Vince Gerasole

The Auto Show runs through Feb. 20. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Feb. 19, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the last day, Feb. 20.

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