POSTCARD FROM DETROIT
As a former resident of the Detroit area and current resident of London, I find it disconcerting to come back to Detroit during auto show time. The weather is cold, but the products are hot.
All of the talk about economic gloom this year was especially surreal when you consider the 'dream machine' concept cars displayed. Ah, but they were designed before sales started to decline.
Everyone was talking about the retro Forty-Nine, Ford's much-promoted concept car. But my favorite was the Volvo Safety Concept Car, a sinuous blend of safety and style. Designed in California, its inspiration is pure European. The back end looked like an Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon, one of the sexiest cars Americans do not get to drive.
The show sure has changed. The floor is divided into giant corporate areas where the largest automakers display their brands like so many trophies. To my way of thinking, the companies' brands were better served when they were scattered across the show floor. The brands seemed more distinct.
Meanwhile, the sport-utilities are huge, and most are useless anywhere gas costs more than $2 a gallon - basically, anywhere outside North America and Saudi Arabia.