Ford's Callum talks about the competition

DETROIT -- I ran into Moray Callum, Ford’s head of design for the Americas, on the show floor. I had known him when he headed Mazda’s design.

So I asked him, “Aside from the Ford vehicles, what did you like?”

We agreed this show didn’t have a lot in the way of true concepts. But he cited several production vehicles, or parts of them, as having caught his eye as good -- or disappointingly average. Among them:

• Audi A8’s rear seat. “Absolutely airplane first-class,” he said. A terrific rear seat.

• Land Rover Evoque. “That’s going to do very well.”

• Volkswagen Passat. Good, but it’s really difficult to stand out from the Jetta.

But Callum’s highest praise went to the Kia Optima.

The Optima is “the best VW here,” he said -- and he wasn’t being snarky. Kia’s design, he said, has become a nice balance of reasonably conservative Teutonic styling, but with a more dynamic touch and sound execution. Plus, Kia and its Hyundai big brother “seem to be getting a lot of content in their vehicles.”