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There's no stopping Detroit's annual auto party - Metro US

There’s no stopping Detroit’s annual auto party

Considering how much upheaval there is in the auto industry at present, the 2010 North American International Auto Show, which kicked off Monday in Detroit, is surprisingly sane and upbeat.

No executives ran around like people with hair on fire.

Nor did we see electric vehicles completely take over the show, like gifted kids at a school assembly.

Nor did we see our lousy global economy suck all of the fun out of the room, like a giant anteater crashing an ant party.

The Detroit auto show continues to be a wondrous thing, and a great window into the North American vehicle market and its numerous storylines.

The “home” team’s performance seems to always be the main story line, and GM and Ford were very solid, with many meaty, significant unveils (Ford Focus, Mustang GT, Buick Regal GS Concept, GMC Granite Concept, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe).

Chrysler on the other hand, didn’t have an official press conference, indicative of its current holding pattern status until parent, Fiat, helps out with new product. But at least its display was somewhat interesting, with an upside Ram truck stuck on the ceiling, and a re-badged Lancia and an electric Fiat 500 to consider.

Among other reveals, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the show’s first concept; some eye candy called “CLS Sculpture,” which apparently signals how the brand might move away from its current wedge-like styling, to something more art deco-ish.

Toyota and Honda continue to work the hybrid angle.

Toyota showed FT-CH, a concept of a compact hybrid it might produce in a few years, and Honda showed the production-ready CR-Z, a smaller, lighter and sportier version of its Insight hybrid.

The continued diversification of hybrid and EV offerings, as well as the continued forays into “got-to-have-fun” vehicles (like the Mini Beachcomber concept and the Dodge Viper ACR 1:33), prove that major auto shows like Detroit are in no danger of becoming irrelevant — we may be moving to different propulsion methods, but the sheet metal we wrap around them will continue to be as diverse as they always have been.

The market has demonstrated that no one is going to settle for one kind of very efficient vehicle. We want our efficiency in every flavour there is… and in flavours yet to be invented. And that will keep the party going on in Detroit, and wherever cars are created and anticipated.

– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.

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