There's been a lot of discussion in recent days about which debut was the most significant vehicle of this year's Detroit Auto Show. Most of the attention is, of course, paid to the new third-generation Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight. While both of these are important in their own way, I don't think either is the most important. The Prius is a natural evolution of the preceding car but doesn't really break any new ground. That's not to take anything away from it, but so far the car seems to be exactly what's expected of a Prius. Similarly, the biggest thing about the Insight is its expected price and it's excellent driving dynamics.
The most significant car I saw (and drove) was the Ford Focus EV mule. This is a preview of a battery electric car that Ford plans to sell in two years. Ford plans to sell the production car at retail and, although the company has not specified a price, they did indicate that volumes at least in the thousands are expected. In order to achieve that goal, the price (at least after tax breaks) will have to be reasonably affordable. The fact that Ford felt confident enough in the program to allow media to spend two days driving the vehicles in downtown Detroit, rather than at a test track, indicates there is something real here.