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An Interview With Mark Bilek From The Chicago Auto Show

What's in this article?
  1. The King Of Kings
  2. The Most Of Everything
  3. What A Cool Job
  4. Size Matters
  5. Ride And Drive
  6. Unique Ground = Advantages For The Consumer
  7. Can I Buy A Car At The Auto Show?
  8. What’s New For The ’15 Show?
An Interview With Mark Bilek From The Chicago Auto Show


If you are into checking out the latest and greatest in cars, then you are into auto shows.  And if you are into auto shows, you know the big ones.  Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, and of course, Chicago.  But if you are not into auto shows, you might not know anything about the largest car show in the nation: the annual Chicago Auto Show heald in Illinois.


One of the big things that make the Chicago Auto Show really unique is that it has the most of everything.  The most exhibits, the most interactive displays, the most simulators, etc.  The show has the most cars.  Because of the space that the show has to use, the consumer has a unique opportunity to see everything automotive in one place.  There are other auto shows that are definitely great.  But what you get here is everything automotive under one roof.

From their website, “Exhibitions include multiple worlds and North American introductions; a complete range of domestic and imported passenger cars and trucks; sport utility vehicles; and experimental or concept cars.  In total, nearly 1,000 different vehicles will be on display. Additionally, attendees will also have the opportunity to see numerous accessories and auto-related exhibits, competition vehicles and project, antique and collector cars.”


Since 2006, Mark Bilek has been the Senior Director of Communications and Techology for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association who is responsible for producing the Chicago Auto Show.

“My role is unique being the director of communication and technology. My main focus is to make sure all of our technology, ticketing, networks are all working.  As the media previews start happening, we had fifteen press events last year, we want to make sure those go off without a problem,” Bilek told me in an interview.  The show has 3,000 members of the media who attend each year.

“I’m constantly pushing out information and releases during the show.  It’s a sixteen hour day for fourteen days straight.  We have about fourteen days where we are at McCormick place. We take our offices down there the whole time, just set them up right there.”

There are ten full-time staff people who produce the nation’s largest auto show.  We are working with our members all year around.  They hire another twenty-seven people during the auto show weeks to work in security, event management, hospitality and more.

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A Cool Job


The number one reason that the Chicago Auto Show is the number one show in America is because of the enormous size of it.  The show is held at the McCormick Place Complex.  Mc Cormick Place is a sight in and of itself; it is THE largest convention center in North America.  The exhibit halls have 2.7 million square feet of space for the automakers, exhibitors and sponsors to fill, with another 700,000 square feet of the meeting room.  (To get an idea of just how large McCormick is, the Los Angeles Convention Center has just 720,000 square feet.)

“We are the largest show in the country in terms of attendance and square footage.  This is a consumer focused show.  Every show has a focus.  For instance in Detroit, it is for the media.  Because this show is created for the consumer, car companies do unique things here that don’t happen at other shows,” Bilek beamed.


There were three indoor rides and drive events at the 2014 show: Toyota, Camp Jeep, and the Chrysler multi-brand trek.  All three of these are inside, right on the showroom floor.  That’s another unique aspect of the Chicago Auto Show.  No other show in the nation has these ride and drive type of events for the consumer.

Mark described the ride and drive events:  “The Toyota ride and drive is 60,000 square feet alone.  We are lucky to have this much space.  Chevrolet, for example, has their largest display in the country at our show. Ford and Toyota have their largest displays here as well.”

“Automakers can display multiple vehicles of each type, so consumers get an example of a broader range of vehicles.  This gives consumers an idea of the price range of vehicles.  At our show, they can demonstrate that price range.  A $20K Honda Sonata, and a $35 k Honda Sonata are very different.  Here you can see those differences right in front of your eyes.”

Ride And Drive


One very interesting aspect of the Chicago Auto Show is that there is not one of the large automobile makers of the world in Illinois. This means that the show doesn’t cater to one or two or a small group of producers, but to all of them.  This is a great advantage for the consumer in the market for a new car.  They get a lot of variety.

“What is really unique about our show is that there is no major automaker here in Chicago.  We are on neutral ground.  So all automakers feel that they have an equal opportunity to the consumers.  In Los Angeles, it is the Asian manufacturers that dominate that show.  In New York, the European manufacturers are there.  And of course in Detroit,  it’s the ‘Big 3’ (GM, Ford, Chrysler).  It is not like that here at our show,” explained Bilek.


“It’s a non-selling show,” Mark told me.  “There are no major US shows that allow purchases right off the floor.”

The reason this policy exists at car shows is so that there is no pressure for the consumers.  The last thing people want to feel the pressure to buy a car, hear the sale pitches, etc. when you just want to go to check out the newest amenities to the industry.

Bilek went on to explain that “In Illinois, there are rules about selling cars that aren’t on the dealer premises.  It would be difficult to do because of those restrictions anyway.”


“We have some interesting things in play for social media and the auto show app for next year that will be happening.  We take advantage of the fact that our attendees are so connected (online).  We want to engage them with that.  We want to meet them there,” Bilek explained.  “I can’t say too much more than that right now, but it is going to be another great show.

Tickets for adults are just $12; they are $6 for seniors and children.

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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Mylene Rutllant
It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

Due to the nature of my work, I must relocate every couple of years to where my company needs me. Because of this, I’ve tested several moving and auto transport companies over the years.

And my choice in terms of auto transport has to be A1 Auto Transport. It’s in the name, but also in the quality with which they do their jobs. I’ve never had a problem with this company.

The only time my shipment was delayed was during winter when a snowstorm closed down all the major roads. And they still found an alternative and got my car delivered before roads got unstuck.

When I moved to West Virginia, they picked up my car the very day I called them. I like to think they take special care of me considering all the business I’ve sent them. I’ll continue to support A1 Auto Transport. It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

Luis Rodriguez
You have my full support and recommendation!

I considered selling my car when I moved to Washington. It was old and rusty, but I grew attached to it. So, I called a couple companies to transport it to my new home, but they both fell through.

The first one couldn’t decide on a schedule. He would constantly change the pickup date till I got frustrated and canceled. The second was insufferable, very rude on the phone, even worse in person.

They started picking a part my car asking me why I still have it. If that’s their opinion of my vehicle, how can I trust they’ll take care of it? If something happened midway, why wouldn’t they just blame it on the car instead of paying up?

So, I cancelled this company as well and turned to A1 Auto Transport. From the get go, they were very different from my past options. Their website was very professional and up to date, full of useful information. I requested a quote using their online form, and I got an email response within an hour. Surprisingly fast!

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought they were lacking customers, but the email spoke for itself. In just one email, everything I needed to know was there, including a contact number I could use to get more information or confirm the transport.

I called and got things rolling. I was very pleased with the driver. He followed standard procedure and represented his company well. Can’t remember his name, but props to him!

The car arrived in Washington 6 days later in excellent condition. From what I understand, the transport was delayed a bit by a storm, but since the time window was 4-6 days from the beginning, I don’t really care. You have my full support and recommendation!

Testimonial by Cristine Benoit
Cristine Benoit
I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

There are a lot of options for auto transport these days, which surprisingly makes it harder to find a good company. I received more than 10 offers to ship my car, but I couldn’t decide on any of them.

After doing some research, I got even more worried reading about all the scams and accidents that can happen. But, I have work to do and couldn’t afford to drive my newly purchased Mini Cooper all the way to Virginia.

Fortunately, I made the right choice with A1 Auto Transport. They are very good at their jobs. I spent more than an hour drilling Joe with various questions, and he never once lost his patience. He saw I was interested, so he bore with me until I was satisfied. The driver was also very courteous and my car was intact on arrival. I couldn’t have asked for more.

By the way, the price we first agreed on stayed the same. There were no delays or unexpected “surprises.” I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

David Osallo
We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10!

We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10! We chose them to move our car from California to Vermont, since we needed professionals.

We were abroad during the transport, so the transport was a bit tricky. The driver had to pick it up from storage on short notice and get it to its destination within at most 10 days. I was happy to note it arrived sooner. We got it 3 days early, right when we got home to pick it up. It made getting around way easier. Awesome service!

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