We’re months removed from the 2022 Cincinnati Auto Expo in Ohio, which took place between February 3rd through February 6th. It may not have received a whole lot of attention, and it’s something that could have easily been overlooked by most motoring enthusiasts, but there was one thing that was interesting about Chevy’s appearance at the auto expo that you might have missed: a focus on its performance off-road trucks. It’s almost as if the brand expected most attendees to put in order forms at the Chevy dealers in Cincinnati for a Z71 or ZR2 pickup after visiting the exhibit.
But who can blame them? A large portion of the car-shopping public is actually truck shoppers. Trucks are some of the biggest selling properties in the auto industry. Heck, the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevy Silverado 1500 are the three biggest sellers on the market, whether new or used. Chevy opting to single out its trucks at the 2022 Cincinnati Auto Show, and more importantly, focusing on off-road performance was quite a bold move, especially compared to what the competition was doing.
Off-Road vs Electric
One of the things that Ford has been focusing on quite heavily over the last two years is the F-150 Lightning. A lot of people are interested in the all-electric iteration of the brand’s most popular vehicle to date. Ford’s exhibit at the Cincinnati Auto Expo and nearly every other recent expo has been to highlight the full-size electric pickup. It’s a resonating effect that has been prominent throughout the promotion of new model years since announcing the Lightning. Chevy, however, went in a different direction at the Cincinnati event.
While the Chevy Silverado EV has been paraded around as the first ever electrified Silverado pickup, it wasn’t quite the centerpiece of attention at the Cincinnati Auto Expo this year. Even sharing a center spot on the floor next to Ford, Chevy’s focus was mostly on its off-road performance pickups. It’s been a consistent strategy for the way Chevy has approached its lineup of vehicles for 2022, which actually makes a lot of sense given that the Chevy Silverado EV is still a year out from release.
Instead of promising people about what’s to come or what may be, the Cincinnati Auto Expo for Chevy was about what actually is. And by that, it showcased a lineup of vehicles that you can buy, vehicles that you can drive right now, and vehicles that Chevy has been promoting for the last year as being available on the market for everyday shoppers. One part of that included a heavy focus on the off-road capable models such as the Trail Boss, the Z71, and the ZR2. It’s an interesting strategy but one grounded in the reality of the current consumer market rather than on the promise of what could be.
A Different Approach
Even though Ford has been busy promoting the F-150 Lightning non-stop since its announcement, it’s not like Chevy hasn’t been doing the same for the Silverado EV. However, the company has taken a different approach to the way it is promoting the vehicle. The big media reveal of the 2024 Silverado EV was made back in January, so you would think the Cincinnati Auto Expo would have been the perfect place to have it as a centerpiece since that’s what was done for the 2022 Chicago Auto Show in February and the 2022 New York International Auto Show in April.
It was apparent that for the Auto Expo in Ohio, Chevy didn’t want to focus on what was to come and instead wanted to focus on the here and now. It’s a great way to convince the attendees at the expo to look into buying what’s already on the market the next time they hit up a Chevy dealer in Cincinnati or elsewhere. But more than that, it was the theme of what was on display in the Cincinnati show that made Chevy’s truck offerings interesting: a focus on off-road performance and capabilities.
The Colorado ZR2––a race-winning truck with a lot of gusto and performance under the hood––made its appearance alongside the Silverado Z71 and a few other variations of pickups, including the heavy-duty models. The 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 has been paraded around in the media for some time now, and despite hitting a few snags due to chip shortage, it was still one of the big marketing tickets for this year’s lineup of trucks. It makes sense why Chevy may have taken a different approach to promote its current lineup of vehicles at the Cincinnati Auto Expo, as opposed to relying on concept cars and electric models.
Expectations vs Reality
In some ways, the Cincinnati expo is what you expect in terms of being grounded in reality versus the New York International Auto Show or Chicago Auto Show. The exhibits are bigger and bolder at the New York and Chicago shows and fall back on panache and pageantry, which is precisely why the 2024 Silverado EV had signature showings there. But is it the reality of the market? We won’t know until more people get their hands on one. Still, the reservations for the truck were sold out within 12 minutes of its official reveal, so there’s obviously demand there.
However, the Z71 and ZR2 trims for the Colorado and Silverado are currently available and trucks that you can get your hands on right now. There are no surprises as to what they have in store because you know what platform they’re built on, what features they have, and what their performance capabilities are. There are no unknown factors going into those vehicles, and in many ways, while you could say the Cincinnati expo was Chevy playing it safe, it was also playing to Chevy’s strengths.
There’s a reality in the Multimatic DSSV dampers for the Colorado and Silverado, there’s a reality in the horsepower of the EcoTec3 V8, and there’s a reality in the turbocharged capabilities put down by the Duramax powerplants. These are instruments that rumble and grumble when you turn them on and pull the truck off a lot. The Silverado EV is still a long way out from availability, and so Chevy didn’t bring promises to the Cincinnati Auto Expo; it brought a tangible offering, one you can purchase right now whether you’re visiting a Chevy dealer in Cincinnati, New York, San Francisco or Miami. Chevy was selling spectators on a reality that it had already brought to the market.
Making Room for EVs
The 2022 Cincinnati Auto Expo isn’t really indicative of Chevy’s future in the industry. It’s a snapshot of how the brand decided to approach a segment of the market and promote its products right now. Just because the 2024 Silverado EV wasn’t the centerpiece of attention at the show doesn’t mean it will not be a centerpiece of the marketing strategy going forward. It’s just a highlight of how the “here” and the “now” were the important focus at the time. However, you’re likely going to start seeing the all-electric Silverado become a much more prominent fixture in Chevy’s offerings moving forward.
It’s an interesting and bold strategy to mix up expectations the way Chevy did, but obviously, it’s not something the brand will likely be sticking to as the Silverado EV starts rolling off the production line and making its way to local Chevy dealers. Does this mean that the Z71s, Trail Bosses, and ZR2s are going on the back burner in the foreseeable future? Unlikely. However, it is important to keep an eye on how Chevy makes an appearance at various auto shows and what sort of offerings it cooks up for local attendees when it comes to how it presents its current and future model year lineup in the coming months.