Every automotive executive your author has interviewed over the past six months believes that 2010 is the year things will turn around. Additionally, all agree it will be a long, slow recovery.
Auto industry analysts echo these informed prognostications. Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Industry Trends at TrueCar, said this about the automotive market after reviewing October and November 2009 sales figures, "The good news is that we now have two consecutive months of stable sales without Cash for Clunkers or heavy incentives spending by the manufacturers. This indicates that the fundamental consumer demand is solid and the worst is over."
Detroit — a city with an unemployment rate closing in on 30-percent — is a metropolis that could use some good news. Some more will come when Detroit's North American International Auto Show opens later this month (January 11-24).
In marked contrast to last year's show, the mood going into the 2010 event is cautiously upbeat, especially for the domestic auto makers. A cloud of unmitigated gloom hung over the 2009 happening. Last January, the futures for General Motors and Chrysler were tentative. News about their survival or demise overshadowed all product introductions. Thankfully, cars should be the stars again for 2010.
Here's what's a sampling of what's coming
Detroit: Ford Motor Company
Ford has now put the 2009 Mustang's old engines out to pasture. It's been worth the wait.
Just last month at the 2009 LA Auto Show, Ford showed the newest Mustang with a high-tech and high-mileage (30 mpg) 305 horsepower 3.7-liter V-6. The team from Dearborn, Mich. appropriately saved the introduction of the all-new 5.0-liter V-8 for Detroit.
The significance of the new five-liter engine is huge. The engine moniker first appeared on the 1983 Mustang GT in 1983. With a four-barrel carburetor, it produced 175 horsepower, what many four-cylinder engines produce today. But the Five-O boosted the Mustang's performance image.
The 2011 version of the V-8 is set to do the same thing. Ford promises at least 412 horsepower from the new 5.0-liter with EPA highway mileage of at least 25 mpg.
Other new equipment is available on the 2011 Mustang GT to match the power of the new 5.0-liter, including; Brembo disc brakes, six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and 19-inch wheels and tires.
It looks like the new Mustang will now be capable of rustlin' up some Camaros and Challengers, eh?
2012 Ford Focus
With all the attention Ford has already generated with their all-new, sub-compact 2011 Ford Fiesta, the bigger small-car news coming from Detroit will be the world-debut of the 2012 Ford Focus.
The all-new Focus is an incredibly important new car for Ford Motor Company. It's reported to be a true world car, with major componentry shared with European Focus models. The Focus is one-size larger than the Fiesta and further bolsters Ford's line of cars that is already outselling their trucks by a factor of 3:2.
For cues on what the new Focus might look like, it's based on the C-Max, already introduced in Europe.
There will be more from Ford at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. The Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover twins are also due for some freshening, and based on our sources at Ford, the MKX will show in Detroit.
Curiously, we've heard nothing about any new Mercury concepts or models for 13 months, so FoMoCo may surprise us with one. Or maybe the news will be of Mercury's demise now that the Lincoln brand is getting stronger.
Detroit: General Motors
How fast does the newest V-Series go? We're not sure, but if you give the heavier CTS-V Sedan enough pavement, it'll run north of 190 mph.
2011 GMC Acadia Denali
Introduced as a 2007 model, GMC has continued to improve their full-size 8-passenger crossover with new engines and small refinements every year. The latest revision is set to go on sale in just a few months, and you could have seen it coming. GMC has painted the Acadia with their divisional Denali brush.
The Denali name designates the most luxurious of any GMC model, and the new Acadia Denali features the expected "drilled" chrome grille, Xenon headlamps, and a monochromatic paint scheme with special front and rear fascias. Leather covers nearly everything inside except the mahogany steering wheel. Prepare to pay extra for the Acadia Denali if the $15,000 jump from the Yukon SLE to Yukon Denali is any indication.
Chevrolet showed their new Cruze sedan at the recent LA Auto Show, and now it's coming to Detroit. This will be the first time anyone will be able to compare it to its newest cross-town rival, the Focus.
Chevy's concentration on small cars continues with the showing of the Aveo RS concept, a all-new car that reportedly bears little resemblance to the current slow-selling Aveo but plenty about the next-generation Aveo.
Cadillac will show a concept that we believe foreshadows the single replacement for both the STS (formerly the Seville) and the DTS (formerly the DeVille). The new sedan goes by the name of XTS, and from what little we've seen (an image of the headlamp), recalls some dramatic design cues from the stunning Cadillac Sixteen concept shown in 2003.
Not to be left out, GMC and Buick will also have concepts. GM executives recently confirmed that GMC's is a small, crossover called the Granite. Buick's is a performance-oriented concept is based on their compact 2011 Regal. Since the Regal is based heavily on the German Opel Insignia, it could share many high-performance parts with the 325-horsepower Insignia OPC, including a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Detroit: Chrysler / Fiat
Chrysler won't be holding a press conference at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. It seems that the new Italian management team deems such traditions as unnecessary and/or unwise. We wonder whether the idiom "Any press is good press," translates into Italian?
However, no press conference doesn't mean that Chrysler won't have a display. As a matter of fact, the company recently announced that their corporate real estate inside Detroit's Cobo Center will be shared with other Fiat brands, Ferrari and Maserati. These expensive sports cars are likely to be placed alongside Dodges and Chryslers as well as an electric version of the tiny Fiat 500, a city car Chrysler hopes to sell in North America in the next couple years.
Detroit: The Imports
Since Detroit is Detroit, domestic makers get most of the spotlight, but European and Asian manufacturers still see this show as an important event to launch new models.
Toyota showed their all-new 2010 Prius at last year's Detroit show. The world's largest automaker plans to follow up that successful launch with the debut of a hybrid subcompact that will likely go on sale in the US in 2012. Industry observers see huge sales potential for a hybrid that is smaller and less expensive than the Prius.
In recent years, Honda has hinted at a sporty hybrid, and they plan to show it at Detroit. Called the CR-Z, it uses a hybrid drive system similar to the Honda Insight. Paying off the car's sporty looks, the CR-Z will be the first hybrid in the world to offer a 6-speed manual transmission. A CVT automatic is standard, just as it is on the Insight.
At this point, the MINI Beachcomber Concept looks to be a candidate for Detroit's MOST FUN award. As BMW — MINI's corporate owner — attempts to figure out how to expand the tiny brand's product line, it seems that a MINI SUV with some off-road capabilities might be in the works. This rollicking design is not only a roofless MINI, but door-less, too.
The drive toward lowering C02 levels — whether necessary or not — is pushing companies like BMW to investigate pure electric vehicles. BMW, through MINI, introduced the MINI E last year. The limited-production run of MINI Es is working like an in-market engineering test for the developmental electric powertrain (customers leased the vehicles and they are to be returned at the lease's end).
BMW is now applying the battery and electric motor technology to their 1-Series, that will feature lithium-ion battery modules and a rear-wheel drive layout.
As for a car you can actually buy, BMW will also show the sportiest production version of the Z4 two-seater, the Z4 sDrive35i.
Audi continues its ambitious product expansion plan by publicly unveiling their all-new, fourth-generation A8 luxury sedan. In their battle against BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, the manufacturer from Ingolstadt, Germany is no longer content to be out of the top three. This handsome flagship should help their efforts.
The Detroit Auto Show will feature a special section called Electric Avenue. The section includes vehicles from manufacturers large and small, including the Chinese giant BYD, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Zap. Leave your extension cords at home because many cars will be available for short test drives on a 1/4-mile track set up in Cobo Center's lower level.
AOL Autos has plenty more material coming from Detroit once the press days of the show begin, Monday January 11. There are sure to be surprises and significant news
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