• 01 Jul 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In these ever-changing and uncertain times, MAMA has adapted to meeting virtually. The new format, labeled "MAMA eMeet," has brought members together four times since the COVID-19 epidemic started.  

    On April 8, Hyundai hosted the first virtual meeting to discuss the 2020 Sonata Hybrid. Virtual attendees were delighted when frozen pizzas arrived at their homes in advance of the meeting. A new meaning to "lunch is served" was courtesy of Michele Tinson and Hyundai.

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles presented its all-new, next-generation Uconnect 5 system on April 29 at the second eMeet. Substantial upgrades and improvements on the popular infotainment system are in the works. FCA announced that the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica, which is slated to go on sale late this year, will be the first vehicle to feature the new system. The Uconnect 5 system was first shown at the Chicago Auto Show this past February.

    With the rescheduling of the MAMA Spring Rally, Nissan instead jumped at the opportunity to virtually present their new 2020 Nissan Frontier on May 19. MAMA members were among the first to learn of the 2020 pricing.  The Frontier, first revealed at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, will be available at dealerships this July. 

    And on June 24, Hyundai was back to discuss the all-new Venue, the brand's seventh addition to its SUV lineup. The Venue slots just below the Kona in terms of size and powertrain, and offers plenty of safety and connectivity features as standard.

    Thank you to all of these OEMs for their diligent efforts to keep our members informed and Up To Speed! Please keep your eyes open for future MAMA eMeets as we will continue to present news virtually until it is safe to resume our in-person monthly meetings. You can track the conversations surrounding previous eMeets by searching for the hashtag #MAMAeMeet. 

  • 01 Jul 2020 9:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Greetings MAMA members,

    In a normal year, I would be writing this letter with a fresh batch of MAMA Spring Rally memories in my mind: boisterous conversation (and eating more than my share of fried fish) at the Lake Street Café, hustling a performance vehicle through the corners and cones on the Road America track, kicking up some mud on the off-road course, the sounds of music and merriment growing louder as I approach the front door of Siebkens for a rollicking afterparty.

    However, as we are all painfully aware, 2020 is no normal year—for so many horrible reasons. In light of such widespread tragedy, suffering, and unrest, the fact that we have had to postpone the 2020 MAMA Spring Rally to the fall seems like a relatively minor hardship. We have made arrangements with our valued partners at The Osthoff Resort and Road America, and we are penciled in for October 26 and 27, with an arrival date of Sunday, October 25. Obviously, none of us can foresee exactly what the world will look like this fall, but our hope is to move forward and hold a “Sprall” Rally in some form.

    The Coronavirus pandemic has upended almost every aspect of our lives, but there are silver linings to be found. Among those is our implementation of “eMeet” virtual presentations in place of our regular monthly meetings. We’ve had four so far, and more are in the works. It’s a far cry from seeing each other in person, but we’ve nonetheless had engaging presentations and productive Q&A sessions, and I’ve been delighted to see our non-Chicagoland members participating as well. We will continue our eMeets for the immediate future, and endeavor to retain a webcast component to our meetings when our in-person luncheons eventually resume. If you are an OEM or organization interested in hosting an eMeet, please contact Senior VP Harvey Briggs for more information.

    In these uncertain times, I look forward to a future where we won’t need to wear out the phrase “in these uncertain times,” or the word “unprecedented.” And amidst all the unpleasant news, I see plenty of inspiring examples of human resilience, ingenuity, and adaptation. All of us at MAMA hope you are staying safe, healthy, and well.

    All for now,

    Damon Bell, MAMA President

  • 20 May 2020 10:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) members were among the first to learn of Nissan’s 2020 Frontier pricing, which was announced this week during the association’s latest eMeet, a virtual meeting series. More than 50 MAMA members, comprised of automotive journalists and related industry professionals, were able to ask live questions of Nissan’s Senior Marketing Manager Michael Yarger and Senior Manager of Engineering Melaina Vasko.

    Pricing for the refreshed-for-2020 Nissan Frontier pickup, which was first unveiled this past February during the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, will begin at $26,790 for the Frontier S King Cab 4x2 model. The top-line model, the Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab 4x4, will be listed at $37,490. Across the model lineup, the 2020 prices represent an average increase of less than $2,000 from 2019.

    The 2020 Frontier features a new 3.8-liter direct-injection V6 engine paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The new engine is rated 310 horsepower (best in class, according to Nissan) and 281 lb.-ft. of torque, and helps the 2020 Frontier achieve its 6,640-lb. towing capacity.

    A host of additional upgrades will be offered for the 2020 model year, including standard push-button start, a leather shift knob, manual tilt steering, power door locks and power windows with the auto-down feature on the driver’s side.

    The 2020 Frontier is available in King Cab, Crew Cab Short Wheelbase and Crew Cab Long Wheelbase bodies, and comes with a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 drive configurations. Additionally, two previous option packages have been added to 2020 Frontier Crew Cab SV grades at no additional charge: the Midnight Edition—featuring special black exterior treatments and 18-inch gloss black aluminum-alloy wheels—and the Special Edition Package—featuring a trip computer, Satin Chrome grille, body-color rear bumper and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

    The 2020 Frontier is scheduled to arrive at dealerships this July.

    For more information on the 2020 Frontier, please visit For more information on MAMA and upcoming MAMA eMeets, visit

  • 01 May 2020 2:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As part of MAMA’s ongoing #MAMAeMeet series, FCA hosted a discussion this week surrounding its all-new Uconnect 5 infotainment system that will first appear on the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica. Leading the virtual meeting was Jin Palmer, FCA’s Head of Infotainment and Feature Planning, and Vince Galante, Chief Designer of User Experience for FCA.

    Palmer noted FCA’s shift to the new software is driven by consumer demand. According to market research, 51 percent of consumers report that technology sways their decision when selecting a new vehicle. An even higher 64 percent are loyal to their in-vehicle tech systems and, moreover, 78 percent of shoppers choose a new vehicle based on a simple and easy-to-use infotainment system. With this in mind, FCA takes a holistic approach to stay ahead of the industry transformation curve by uniting the key elements that are important to consumers.

    Backed by a new Android operating system, FCA claims Uconnect 5 is five times faster than its outgoing system and has three times the resolution when displaying on-screen graphics. The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica will be one of the first FCA vehicles to get the Uconnect 5 system; it will offer a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is nearly 20 percent larger than the screen it replaces.

    Aesthetically speaking, everything is laid out in a logical fashion keeping in line with these four pillars:

    • Aligns with a digital lifestyle
    • Keeps vehicle fresh
    • Improves customer care
    • Allows for future tech applications

    The technology features are enhanced, including:

    • Familiar gestures such as swiping
    • Ability to connect two phones simultaneously using Bluetooth
    • Presets are not limited to bands (Sirius XM, FM and AM can coexist in the same line)
    • New TomTom navigation experience adds popular features for a built-in solution with natural voice capability and Maps Over The Air (MOTA)
    • Uconnect pioneers personalization with up to five user profiles plus valet mode, reestablishing vehicle preferences and settings with the touch of a button
    • Exclusive and customizable home screen allows quick access to frequently used features with one-touch operation
    • Uconnect expands Alexa "Home to Car" functionality to include in-vehicle Alexa virtual assistant with natural voice capability and “Car to Home” features
    • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration

    FCA’s design challenge with its new Uconnect 5 system was for owners to have one-touch access to frequently used controls. Some additional noteworthy new features include the ability to mix and match content to build a personalized interface and the access to create up to five custom interfaces.

    While the Uconnect 5 system will first debut on the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica, it will eventually roll out to Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat vehicles.

    The MAMA Board is planning two additional #MAMAeMeet virtual meetings for May; invitations are forthcoming.

  • 14 Apr 2020 10:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last week, Hyundai hosted MAMA’s first “virtual” online monthly meeting via Zoom web-conferencing software. Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, MAMA is focused on providing relevant content to our media members while continuing to serve as an effective outlet for MAMA affiliate members to present new products and news to a relevant and engaged audience.

    Scott Margason, Director of Product Planning, Hyundai Motor America, opened the Zoom meeting with an update on Hyundai’s sales momentum throughout 2019, where the brand saw an increase even when the rest of the industry experienced sales declines. Margason attributes the brand’s growth to an overall surge in SUV sales; Hyundai’s SUV sales are up 56 percent. However, even though Hyundai’s SUV sales have increased, he noted the continued demand for sedans, especially alternative fuel vehicles. According to Hyundai research, 33 percent of people polled would consider purchasing a hybrid as their next vehicle.

    The initial announcement of the 2020 Sonata Hybrid made waves at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, where the vehicle made its worldwide debut. Jerome Gregeois, Senior Manager, Hyundai Technical Center, discussed the many new features of the 2020 Sonata Hybrid, including:

    • Best-in-class highway fuel economy on Blue trim level
    • Class-leading combined fuel economy on Blue trim level
    • EPA estimated 52 mpg combined fuel economy rating and 686 miles of driving range on Blue trim level
    • Solar Roof System can increase driving range – Hyundai says people can think of it as up to 700 “free” miles per year
    • Hyundai Digital Key technology as an option
    • The top front-seat leg- and headroom in the segment
    • Unique eco-friendly design cues improve aerodynamics
    • Active Shift Control technology makes shifts 30 percent faster and smoother

    The Sonata Hybrid is offered in three trim levels: Blue (well-equipped, price-leading model with high level of standard safety features); SEL (value-driven core model with popular equipment; and Limited (fully loaded model with advanced safety and convenience features). The vehicle is now hitting Hyundai dealerships.

    Margason wrapped up the presentation by sharing his belief that Hyundai has the best fuel cell tech on the market. He said while a full transition to electrification will take time, Hyundai wants to be ahead of the curve and ready to share its wide portfolio of multiple technologies with the marketplace.

    MAMA is in the process of planning its next virtual meeting for later this month, so members should stay tuned for more details.

  • 10 Mar 2020 4:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Article by Harvey Briggs, Publisher and Editor - Rides & Drives 

    For MAMA members who aren’t members of a major media organization (or even if you are), it’s good practice to maintain visibility with communications staff at the auto companies. The more they see your work and come to appreciate your point of view, the better chance you’ll have at getting on vehicle loan lists and receiving program invitations.

    Trevor Dorchies, Ram Truck PR Manager, advises, "One of the best ways to be made aware of a story is to send a clip to the fleet company once the story is posted. Another would be to simply send the story directly to the PR person as it goes live. That also helps you develop a rapport with the OEM, shows them you value the time spent with the vehicle and keeps them up-to-date on your work."

    While companies like Drive Shop and G. Schmitz monitor and report the press generated by the vehicles they distribute, Curt McAllister from Toyota says, “Don’t assume we see the stories you write. Send links and even hard copies if it’s in print to both me and Matt Hruska [Drive Shop].”

    You really have two main avenues to share your work: social media and email.

    Many communications people are on Facebook and Twitter so you can tag them in the posts of your reviews. It’s more important, however to tag the manufacturer’s media account.

    According to Elizabeth Williams, Communications Manager for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, “While people do tag me personally when they post stories, we track everything on our media accounts so you’re better off sharing things there.”

    Email is your best bet to make sure your work is noticed. But don’t overdo it. Put the name of the vehicle in the subject line, just a quick personal note thanking them for the loan or hospitality at an event, and a link to your story. Don t carpet bomb the story to everyone on the communications team. Start with your regional communications representative and the person most relevant to the vehicle you ve covered at HQ. If you don’t have them, emails for the appropriate contacts are readily available on the manufacturers’ media websites. It’s a good idea to create your own contact spreadsheet and update it regularly as people do move around.

    One final piece of advice from McAllister, “Make sure you send it even if a story is less than flattering. It helps us to know what’s being said out there. And really, we don’t hold it against anyone as long as it’s fair.”

  • 10 Mar 2020 4:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alfa Romeo hosted the MAMA March meeting at a new-to-MAMA venue, Iron Gate Motor Condos – the Chicago area’s first exclusive residence for classic, collector and exotic vehicles. This unique motor-condo facility spans a 45-acre campus and brings together passionate car collectors to gather in a community and celebrate their hobby.

    Ben Lyon, Head of Alfa Romeo, Operations and Customer Experience, led the presentation to spotlight the new 2020 Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV, both of which are just hitting dealership showrooms this quarter. Lyon discussed the highlights of both freshened vehicles “keeping what’s great and improving on the rest.” The updates include new standard content, an enhanced premium interior, advanced safety features and a new 8.8-inch touchscreen display.

    Also new for 2020 is a host of standard and available connectivity features, including Wi-Fi Hotspot, Mobile App with Remote Operations, SOS Call (Private) and Roadside Assistance, Vehicle Finder, Stolen Vehicle Locator and Assistance, as well as select Firmware Over the Air updates.

    At the forefront of the Giulia’s refined cabin is the new center console, which provides an updated design featuring a machined-knurled aluminum-look rotary dial, upgraded knob materials and increased storage capacity. Rounding out the enhanced Giulia interior environment are larger cup holders and a new phone storage area with available wireless charging.

    The 2020 Giulia and Stelvio mark the debut of a full set of available advanced driver-assistance systems, including Level 2 semi-autonomous capabilities that enable the vehicle to control acceleration, braking and steering in certain driving conditions – providing the driver with the perfect balance between driving pleasure and autonomous control. These include:

    • Highway Assist System
    • Traffic Jam Assist System
    • Traffic Sign Recognition
    • Lane Keep Assist
    • Active Blind Spot Assist
    • Driver Attention Alert
    • Standard Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus

    Verde Visconte Metallic (green), Lunare White Metallic and Anodized Blue are newly available metallic-paint colors for 2020. Lyon noted that the most popular color choices for Alfa Romeo models are something bold – especially blue and red hues.

    Also announced was the introduction of the new Giulia GTA, a limited-run model that is technically and conceptually inspired by the Giulia GTA of 1965: the “Gran Turismo Alleggerita” developed by Autodelta and based on the Giulia Sprint GT that racked up sporting successes worldwide. Based on the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Giulia GTA is fitted with special lightweight components and a more powerful version of the Alfa Romeo 2.9 V-6 Bi-Turbo engine that puts out 540 horsepower instead of the Quadrifoglio’s 505 hp. Only 500 GTAs will be produced, and there’s no word on yet on the car being sold in the United States.

  • 10 Mar 2020 4:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Plenty has changed since MAMA was founded almost 30 years ago, but we are fortunate to count several active longtime members—and even a few founding members—among our ranks. One of those founding members is Rick Cotta, Managing Editor of Consumer Guide Automotive. Rick has been with Consumer Guide since 1990, and he was there at the very beginning of MAMA. We caught up with Rick to ask him a few questions about the early days of the organization.   

    1. MAMA began in 1991. How did you hear about MAMA and what roles have you played since the inception?

    As far as I know, Jim Mateja sent around a notice asking for interested parties to meet at a restaurant to discuss starting an auto-journalist association along the lines of MPG and IMPA, but focused on Chicago media. My boss at the time, Rick Popely (who later became the third president of MAMA), asked me to come along, and there may have been others from Consumer Guide there as well.  Most of my “official” involvement since has been with the Rally Committee. And most of that has been organizing the Spring Rally’s go-karting event.

    2. We heard through the grapevine that you suggested the name "MAMA."  How did that name come about?

    At that first meeting, the proposed name for the organization was the Midwest Automotive Press Association. Attendees were asked for their thoughts. Of course, I’d figured out the acronym before suggesting that perhaps “media” might be more encompassing than “press,” as some members might be PR folks and such.

    It was Rick Popely who got it first. “HA!” he laughed. “Mama!” Then it started. “Come to mama” … “mama’s boys” … etc. It was voted in.  

    3. How has MAMA evolved over the last 29 years?

    Probably the biggest change in the organization came with the advent of the Spring Rally. The late Bob Kocher had a lot to do with that, but he wasn’t alone. My personal recollection was that Mark Bilek (who was a co-worker at Consumer Guide at the time and at some point a MAMA president) was deeply involved with it as well.  

    It was at a press preview in the early 1990s that a fellow auto journalist pointed out that there were probably fewer than 200 jobs like ours in the entire country. And doing the math, that was likely true. After starting out with just a dozen or so members, today there are nearly that many auto journalists in MAMA alone. 

    4. What do you gain from being a MAMA member?

    Overall, I’m a rather quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. Yet at nearly every press event I attend, PR people and other journalists will recognize me and come up and talk about the Spring Rally. While their comments are inevitably favorable, I always take the opportunity to ask them what I feel is the only survey question that really matters: What could we do better? When pressed that way, they’ll occasionally come up with something I’ll pass along to the committee.

    And of course, our monthly meetings are always interesting, providing speakers with insights I’d otherwise never have … not to mention a lunch that doesn’t consist of canned tuna and frozen vegetables.

    5. What is your favorite part of being a MAMA member?

    Aside from the above, it’s an opportunity to talk cars with others who share that interest. Besides a friend who is similarly afflicted, I never discuss the topic with people unless they ask. If someone inquires as to what I do for a living (such as on an airplane), I always just say I’m an editor...which quite effectively shuts down that line of questioning. 
  • 10 Mar 2020 4:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Chicago Auto Show Highlights

    With the 2020 Chicago Auto Show in the rearview mirror, we’re reflecting on some of the show’s key moments. The longest-running auto show in North America once again featured more than 1 million square feet of top-tier exhibits by global automakers; more than 20 brand-new vehicle introductions that made their worldwide or national debut; a host of interactive exhibits; and indoor and outdoor test drive opportunities.

    As a regional press association, MAMA is fortunate to have the nation’s largest auto show held right in its backyard. The entire event kicked off with the Midwest Automotive Media Association opening breakfast, during which MAMA President Damon Bell announced the 2020 MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year and Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year Award recipients. The 2020 Kia Telluride was named the winner of the 10th annual MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year Award and the 2020 Lincoln Aviator won the second annual MAMA Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year Award. The MAMA breakfast has really become a cornerstone event over the years, signifying the show’s opening and consistently attracting 400 attendees ranging from national media outlets, automotive manufacturers and other key industry personnel. 

    After the dust settled from the Media Preview, MAMA members remained active during the show’s public days. Specifically, show organizers tapped MAMA’s resourceful membership to serve as panelists in a series of Facebook Live discussions held in the show’s BUZZHUB, in partnership with ABC 7 Chicago. Each Facebook Live event featured a new industry hot topic ranging from connected cars, industry trends, electric vehicles, best family vehicles and more. Each discussion was hosted by ABC 7 Chicago’s reporter Roz Varon and was streamed live on ABC 7 Chicago’s and the Chicago Auto Show’s Facebook pages. MAMA-member expert panelists included Matt Avery, Damon Bell, Mark Bilek, Jill Ciminillo, Tim Healey, Paul Herrold, Kelsey Mays, Jennifer Newman, Larry Nutson, Jim OBrill and Joe Wiesenfelder.

    Speaking of remaining “active,” MAMA President Emeritus Jill Ciminillo helped facilitate the Chicago Auto Show’s first indoor run, Honda Miles Per Hour, in partnership with the Chicago Area Runners Association. Held on the show’s final weekend, the unique indoor run guided participants on a 2.4-mile loop through the vast halls of the show. The event’s moniker accurately describes the premise of the run, where participants covered as much distance as possible within a one-hour timeframe. The winner, Zach Hird of Chicago, covered 11 miles in the one-hour allotted timeframe.

  • 10 Mar 2020 4:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Greetings MAMA members,

    It’s already March! Hope your 2020 is going well, and that you had a great holiday season and a productive Chicago Auto Show.

    Speaking of CAS, we were once again honored to kick off the show’s Media Preview days with the Midwest Automotive Media Association Breakfast. We announced the winners of our Family Vehicle/Luxury Family Vehicle of the Year awards and the James L. Mateja Memorial Scholarship, and hosted the Automotive Hall of Fame’s announcements of their 2020 inductees. Our keynote speaker was Ed Laukes, Group Vice President—Toyota Division Marketing, but instead of the standard podium speech, Ed and I sat down for a more informal “fireside chat” interview.

    Spring is just around the corner, and that means the 2020 MAMA Spring Rally is fast approaching as well. The MAMA Spring Rally Committee had our kick-off planning meeting in late February, and we are working to bring an improved off-road course and maybe a surprise or two to the event. The dates are May 20 and 21—mark it down on your calendars now! To our manufacturer-rep members: We do have a few Spring Rally sponsorship opportunities available. Please contact Senior VP Harvey Briggs or myself if you’re interested in claiming one of those slots.

    Also, Harvey is the point person for our monthly luncheon meetings, so contact him if you’d like to host one of those. We’ve already had two monthly luncheons this year… Nissan filled us in on the redesigned-for-2020 Sentra at our January meeting, and Alfa Romeo just showed off the 2020 Giulia and Stelvio at our March meeting.

    One of the MAMA board’s primary aims for 2020 is to ensure our journalist members are producing content, and to assist them in growing their audiences where we can. In our interactions with various PR representatives, the term we keep hearing is “return on investment.” Since all MAMA events, and particularly the Spring and Fall Rallies, depend on manufacturer participation and support, we as an organization have to make it worth their time and expense to do so.

    For that, we need to rely on our journalist members, so when you attend our events, please “post early and post often,” and share your coverage with us so we can share it as well. Here’s to a great 2020!

    All for now,

    Damon Bell, MAMA President

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