Toyota Grand Highlander, Subaru Crosstrek, VW Atlas Dominate Chicago Auto Show

CHICAGO — There was no shortage of news at the recent Chicago Auto Show, and Toyota led the way with the global debut of a new model, the three-row 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander. 

To play up the vehicle’s road-trip worthiness, the automaker partnered with Nintendo for the launch and displayed a one-off Grand Highlander with a Nintendo-themed wrap. 

Large screens, speakers and a Nintendo gaming console were installed in the vehicle for auto show attendees to experience the spaciousness of Grand Highlander and games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe while at the Toyota display. 

Once the vehicle's on sale this summer, 500 customers will receive a Nintendo Switch – OLED Model system and a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game, says Lisa Materazzo, group vice president of Toyota marketing. 

“We like the Nintendo partnership because when you think about our key area of focus for this vehicle roominess -- especially that rear-seat roominess -- and think about the people who are occupying those seats, they're kids,” Materazzo tells DriveTime. “So a gaming partnership makes perfect sense, and we thought it was a fun thing to do, to launch this vehicle and celebrate it.”

While auto shows are no longer the only place automakers can reveal vehicles, the Toyota executive says she sees a continued need for such events.

“An auto show is a place where consumers can go shopping in a very low-key environment and be exposed to all of our vehicles and learn about them at their own pace and on their own time,” Materazzo says. “It's a very enjoyable experience. So we think they do play a key role going forward -- but probably just a different role than we've seen them play in the past.”

Meanwhile, Subaru of America, which recently launched a TV spot featuring the beloved Barkleys for its current generation Crosstrek, unveiled the restyled 2024 Crosstrek at the Chicago show. 

The automaker announced that pricing, starting at $24,995, will notably stay the same as for the 2023 Crosstrek.

As the brand’s smallest and most affordable vehicle, it’s designed to appeal to young people, says Alan Bethke, senior vice president, marketing, for Subaru of America. But it also has fans among empty nesters. 

“It’s reliable and safe, and then young people really like the way it looks, and of course the value, too,” Bethke tells DriveTime. “Dependability and capability matters.”

The vehicle is geared toward people who like the outdoors and adventure, but also like helping the earth, he says. 

“So it's tread lightly -- Subaru’s a very tread-lightly brand,” Bethke says. “Go there and get access to these kind of wild and wonderful places, but do it in a respectful way. Our owners are that way. Our company is that way. And so I think people like Crosstrek for that, too.”

The other big reveal during the auto show’s media day was a major refresh to the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport.

The Atlas was the first modern Volkswagen designed, engineered and produced specifically for American buyers, and since its debut, it has become a major player in the U.S. market, says Pablo Di Si, president and CEO, Volkswagen of America, who was on hand to unveil the refreshed vehicle to the media.

He credits the Altas to changing American’s perceptions of the company by “improving our brand image, boosting sales and making us a viable company.”

The improvements to VW’s flagship SUV include a significant interior upgrade with premium materials and standard high-end comfort features, like ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. 

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