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Just a few weeks ago, Chicago was buzzing with automotive hype from the annual Chicago Auto Show, which the Chicago Tribune claims to be the largest and most popular car show in the country, and attendance at this year’s show even rose by about 7% compared to last year’s event. The Auto Show was certainly a boost for the local economy, and it gave manufacturers a chance to connect with consumers while receiving some much-needed marketing opportunities.

But in the wake of the Auto Show, many people have wondered if the huge event was really worth the cost — would it actually convert into profits for manufacturers and dealerships in the Chicago area?

According to the Tribune, the answer is a definite “yes.” Of all the consumers who attended auto shows across the country this year, it’s estimated that about 55% of those attendees actually intend to purchase a car in the near future.

On the other side of Chicago’s auto industry, however, changes in the state’s legislature may prove to be even more beneficial to local dealerships than the annual Auto Show.

In a series of three bills proposed in the General Assembly by Sen. Jim Oberweis, dealerships may soon be able to operate and make sales on Sundays. Currently, it is illegal for dealers to sell vehicles on Sundays, and there are three bill proposals that aim to repeal the current laws:

  • Senate Bill 1780 would repeal the law that prohibits “offering for sale, barter, exchange, or lease for a period of one year of more, any motor vehicle, whether new or used.”
  • Senate Bill 1706 would permit a dealership to operate on Sundays “if the licensed dealer is a person who observes a religious day of worship other than Sunday.”
  • Senate Bill 1835 would allow a dealership to operate for a maximum of two hours on a Sunday.

Although many Americans may find these religious observance laws to be arcane, the Tribune notes that only 34 states permit dealerships to make sales on Sundays.

Individual dealers seem to be divided on the bill proposals — some are in favor of the repeals, while others believe that the current laws don’t restrict the industry and aren’t worth changing.

But it’s important to note that the country’s automotive industry is changing. Events like the Chicago Auto Show — which can be attended virtually from any location, as long as there’s an internet or cable connection — are providing consumers with more information, and are causing more buyers to turn to online marketplaces.

With easy-to-access car history reports, and the ability to choose between a traditional closed car shipping carrier or a 60% cheaper open carrier, consumers are becoming more confident in their purchases and are spending less when they buy vehicles online.

If local car dealers hope to compete, it’s clear that Chicago’s auto industry needs to adapt to consumer buying trends — and perhaps auto shows and politics both need to contribute.

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