• Jan 14, 2013
The Corvette C7 Stingray has taken center stage in Detr... The Corvette C7 Stingray has taken center stage in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show (Credit: Autoblog).
A new Corvette promised to revive the longest-running sports car in American history. A new Mercedes-Benz showcased the smaller future ahead for its classic European brand. Cadillac won its first-ever Car Of The Year award in its hometown, then debuted an extended-range electric vehicle.

Storylines emerged everywhere Monday during the first day of the North American International Auto Show. There were so many new cars and concepts, in fact, the one story missing was almost lost in the shuffle.

The economy.

Over the past five years, it's been a dominant, if moribund theme at Detroit's annual gathering of auto executives, journalists and car enthusiasts. But the auto industry has rebounded from the depths of the recession, enjoying three consecutive years of sales growth.

To be sure, the industry hasn't neared its pre-recession halcyon days of 2007, when consumers bought 17 million vehicles. But in 2012, the industry sold 14.5 million units, a 13 percent improvement over 2011's figures. Executives at least believe they're on the right track. The worrying was gone Monday, and the change was palpable.

"This morning, I saw a new energy and confidence in the industry," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, visiting Detroit. "It is clear to me that the U.S. auto industry is back."

With a larger-than-life statue of hometown hero Joe Louis looking on from the Cobo Center lobby, Detroit's mettle was on display everywhere on the opening day of the auto show.

In addition to the Cadillac capturing its first crown as car of the year, Chrysler won Truck Of The Year honors for the new Ram 1500. It was a busy day for Chrysler overall, as Jeep unveiled a diesel option on its new Grand Cherokee and CEO Sergio Marchionne panned the launch of the underwhelming Dodge Dart.

Meanwhile, Toyota dethroned General Motors as the industry's global sales leader with 9.7 million units sold versus GM's 9.3 million. Tesla unveiled its gull-winged X model, a crossover style follow-up to its groundbreaking all-electric Model S, Lexus unveiled its new IS and Acura debuted the long-awaited update to its popular NSX.

"There really isn't a theme for the Detroit show this year with it being diverse, in terms of product launches with mainstream vehicles, luxury vehicles, and from trucks to iconic vehicles," said Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar.

The theme is simply that, there are a lot of them. More than 50 models are expected to make their debuts in front of more than 5,000 media members by the time the press portion of the show ends Tuesday evening, better than the 40 that were unveiled last year.

A record 79 vehicles made their first appearances at the Detroit Auto Show in 2004, but the number fell to less than half that as the recession pummeled the industry and automakers retrenched. The industry's willingness to commit to so many debuts this year was a sign the economy's rebound is firm.

"It shows that the recovery that we've seen in the previous years was not a coincidence," said Jesse Toprak, senior automotive analyst for TrueCar.com.

Indeed, Ford announced earlier this week that it would add 2,200 white-collar jobs in 2013 and General Motors announced it would hire 1,000 technical engineers at its research center in Atlanta. Nissan announced it would hire 1,000 workers in the U.K.

More anecdotal evidence of the industry's collective relief: the after-hours parties that automakers are throwing this year are both more numerous and more elaborate than they were in leaner years, when planners turned the volume down on the annual bashes, careful to not be perceived as ostentatious while the industry drove hundreds of thousands to the unemployment line.

Perhaps the biggest spectacle this year, Chevrolet retrofitted a dilapidated warehouse on the north side of the city Sunday night, using the backdrop of the city's all-too-trendy ruin porn to introduce the Corvette C7 Stingray, the model's first overhaul in nine years.

Built since 1953, sales of the iconic sports car had tumbled to a 49-year-low of 13,164 in 2011. Its overhaul, which has at least initially won rave reviews for a higher-quality interior, has done more than put the brand in a better position.

"The soul of our company is indeed in Corvette," said Mark Reuss, General Motors chairman of North America. "Through good times and bad for this company, there was always the Corvette."

Cadillac's new ELR could carry similar weight, albeit for logistical, not symbolic, reasons.

It "may be more important to Chevrolet than it is to Cadillac," said Eric Lyman, vice president of editorial for ALG. "By sharing an assembly line, the ELR's success will take pressure off Volt sales, allowing GM to dial back on incentives that have added risk to the Volt's residual value forecast."

For General Motors, it was a sensible calculation. For Detroit, the ELR announcement meant relief at its nearby Hamtramck assembly plant, where the Volt is built. And for the city, the greater problems of abandoned buildings and corrupt politicians not withstanding, the city had much to enjoy for the first time in years at its annual showcase.

"You can really feel the difference," said Ryan Vaughan, one of the chief General Motors designers who worked Corvette. "There's optimism."



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  • 42 Comments
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow they knocked it out of the park well done Chevy Beautiful car
      garygkennedy
      • 1 Year Ago
      dont go to auto shows anymore, dont want to look at the green crap that they are pushing that will never ever work. Oh ya cadillac just build a battery car with the lithioum batteries that blow up and catch on fire. that should sell well.
        dale
        • 1 Year Ago
        @garygkennedy
        yeah. . we want to sound real manly too.
      jesuaphn
      • 1 Year Ago
      GM did not sell too many Corvettes last year;I wonder why? Perhaps the price..., well why go there.They are way too expensive.
        Mr. Sinatra
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jesuaphn
        Still, they're a great value for the money compared to their nearest competitor. ANd that's not just my opinion. Read any Car rag and you'll find that to be fairly universal. Try a new comparably performing Ferrari at about 3 times the price and 10 times the upkeep. I've had one. I know. ANd trust me. Vettes are the way to go if you want to be in a performance car you can affordably buy and maintain. I now have a Maserati and an XKR Jag, and frankly, I'd much rather have the Vette. Especially this new one. Wow..
          jkingsire
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Mr. Sinatra
          I have to disagree.....My new BMW 535I maynot be as fast but dollar for dollar a way better car....
          vlady1000
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Mr. Sinatra
          I have a 20 year old Vette with 100k miles on it. Still drives and looks almost like new. Only reg maintence one caliper and one fuel pump in 20 years. Even have the original hoses, shocks, etc still on it. My wife and I have owned many, many "fun" cars. Each have their strong and weak points, but you can not beat a Vette for performance, fun, and low cost, for the $$$.
          Robert Brooks
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Mr. Sinatra
          A great value because most of the interior material is of low grade plastic. You can almost guarantee the dash will crack in 2 years.
      Sekinu2
      • 1 Year Ago
      As far as new cars and excitement about future cars at the show there was none. All the cars were boring, or electrical snores with no American styling and downsizing into cars no one wants but is forced into.
      bjzink
      • 1 Year Ago
      Economy worries over??? Most of my neighbors, friends, relatives have no clue that it is over. Still trying to pay the home loan, finding a little extra to eat out once a month, no auto trips unless we have at least 5 errands to run in order to save gas. Vacations? Forget it. Can't even pay for these basics, let alone hundreds of dollars for a new car.
        Mr. Sinatra
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bjzink
        Yea really... Where are these people getting the money to buy new cars? They must be on Obama's long list of entitlement recipients.
      ulatula
      • 1 Year Ago
      The new vette looks like a worked camaro. The rear end/taillight assembly looks really cheap like the accountants got the tail lights out of the GM parts bin !!! What a shame !!!!
      rkeeeballs
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wish one of the car companies could make an affordable new car that sells for $10k...I understand it wouldn't have the usual bells and whistles....Just need transportation, I will roll the window down by hand.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rkeeeballs
        There's a lot of good cars, providing reliable transportation at an affordable(under 10k) price, rkeeeballs.....they're called USED CARS. I make a good living, am saving for retirement and also own a second home, but we've purchased exactly TWO new cars in 28 years, preferring to drive a quality used car and bank the money instead of making car payments. Try it....it works. Cars built in the last 10 years last far longer than autos from the "good ol days", are much safer and, especially as of late, are easy on the gas. Low-ish mileage used vehicles are the way to go, just as they were decades ago when my dad drummed this wisdom into my teenage head. He was right then, and is right now. And with the internet, carfax, computer diagnostics, etc. it's never been easier to find a quality used car. As new car sales increase more used wheels come on the market, so the revival of the new car market is music to the ears of a used car buyer. Wise up, my friend!
        Mr. Sinatra
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rkeeeballs
        Dude.. you would not want what they sell in that approximate price range. i just rented a Kia Soul. What absolute garbage. I sure wouldn't put my kids in one. And you'd have to pay me to drive one again.
        bootsnchaps60
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rkeeeballs
        Agreed. I'll take the safety features like air bags but roll up windows are okay too.
        stevendy1
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rkeeeballs
        chevy spark at $ 12250 ,,chevy sonic at $14300,made in lake orion,mi., both with bells and whistles..
          Sekinu2
          • 1 Year Ago
          @stevendy1
          Only issue is an adult male can not get into those tiny shoe boxes. Those are more go kart then car. it has to at least be able to allow and adult american male to get behind the wheel. Might be fine for the asian market and some small guys but not the average grown adult US male.
      ajpoolio1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just bought a Buick Enclave ,and they are made in the USA.
      adika3z
      • 1 Year Ago
      oh NOOO again, car is so ugly design body, 2 weak bumpers, weak body, cannot enough able to see back rear, automaker is a really big DUMB
        john buttimer
        • 1 Year Ago
        @adika3z
        Are you kidding me? Look at the lines and contours of that car! That says beauty and style. Sure its a bit bright but damn it looks good!
      • 1 Year Ago
      I try hard to uy American but its not easy. Have you ever tried to buy something not made in china? If you want to buy American you can't do it at GM or Ford or chrysler or wall-mart, or K-mart or Sears. What do we make in this country?
      mike edwards
      • 1 Year Ago
      believe me i almost thought gm had a car to capture that catagory with the cruz keep it plain steel wheels ect but then the eco boosted it this that and the other thing well the other junk they push is korean now buick is bringing crap from korea with bailout money ment to put our people to work lots of resentment about gm in this country they dont say see the usa in your chevrolet anymore.
      corvair63
      • 1 Year Ago
      Doin' it...in "the D"!!
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