Detroit Auto Show Said To Be On Track

North American International Auto ShowIt might come as a surprise--given the economy, conditions at the domestic automakers, and glacial cold in the Motor City--but organizers of next month's North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit's Cobo Hall say attendance is shaping up to be strong as it was in the 2008 show.

A NAIAS rep says the yearly show--which last year brought some 700,000 attendees including some 7,000 international media from some 60 countries, and approximately 40,000 industry insiders from over 2,000 companies--is filling up. Nissan, Suzuki, Land Rover and Mitsubishi will not be attending.

At the show--for which press days are Jan. 11-13--Ford will showcase the hybrid version of the Ford Focus, which goes on sale in the spring and was unveiled recently at the L.A. Auto Show. The car was just rated at 41 mpg city--a fact that a Ford rep says will be worked into messaging. "Obviously, when we do ramp it up, you can bet fuel economy will be among the things we will be touting," he says.



Ford will unveil the forthcoming Taurus, Lincoln MKT, and Shelby Mustang GT-500 at the show. The rep says the show is critical. "It's our hometown, and we have a lot coming this year and next, so for us this is the best way to get the cars on consumers' radars."

General Motors will show the sub-compact Chevrolet Cruze. The company will also unveil the 2010 Equinox compact crossover; the Chevrolet Orlando, a seven-seat crossover; and a tall-wagon version of the Cadillac CTS.

Todd Turner, president of Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Car Concepts, says GM and Chrysler will be between a rock and a hard place at Cobo, where the audience will be a skeptical global business and auto press: The automakers have to talk honestly about their troubles while performing the pomp and circumstance requisite to the new-model unwrapping ritual. "They can't act as if the new products they will show are emblematic of their turnaround strategies," he says.

"They will say something, but it's a matter of how that's communicated. It has to be very strong on fundamentals, and you can't talk about that just with product." They will have to talk about how they are going to work with dealers to get customers financing. "They need to start talking about solutions--ways they are going to get inventory moving again. All they have talked about so far is reducing production capacity. Yes, they are going to be excited about new products, but at the same time, it doesn't matter [that] the product is new if people can't buy it."

Turner also questioned the official stats for show attendance, noting that during a typical year, one has to book rooms months in advance. "For fun, I have been going online to see how many rooms are available. It hasn't been a problem at all getting rooms, even now. I made a booking last week."

Toyota's Lexus division will have a two-level, 12,600-square-foot showcase for forthcoming vehicles like convertible versions of the 2010 IS 250 and IS 350 cars; the 2010 RX 350 and RX 450h SUVs, and the first unveiling of the a new hybrid in the Lexus portfolio, the HS 250h.

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