The old maxim that the auto business is like the fashion business, where styles change and what's old is new again, is being proved against the glittery backdrop of auto shows in Los Angeles and Detroit.
With so many new offerings, it's clear that to be successful, automakers must give consumers what they want; and what consumers want is changing.
For example, consumers want more fun.
That's why Dodge and Chevrolet are showing off retro-look concepts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The cars appear to be a design throwback to the pony cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro are sure to create a buzz in Detroit, as will the production version of the 2007 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500.
But consumers don't just want to have fun.
They also want value, and the unstable price of gasoline means they want fuel efficiency, too. That means more crossover vehicles, many of which resemble good, old-fashioned station wagons, as families wean themselves from bigger SUVs.
It also means more small cars are coming to North America. Among them are the Toyota Yaris sedan and redesigned Chevrolet Aveo sedan, which were unveiled in Los Angeles last week, and the Nissan Versa, which was held for Detroit.
The auto shows in Detroit and Los Angeles also feature a growing number of increasingly fashionable gasoline-electric hybrid models. Automakers that missed the first hybrid wave have struggled to catch up, which must be a lesson to those that underestimated the technology.
Cars and trucks that remind us how much fun the automobile business is have an important place in the industry because they generate consumer passion. But utility is important, too.
With nearly 1,600 car and light-truck models on sale in the United States, automakers must give consumers what they need as well as what they want.