Although the show has just begun for the public, the press and preview days of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit concluded last week, and the consensus was favorable.
It was a different show than in years gone by. There was a lot less of the fireworks and smoke and mirrors that the Detroit show is known for. This year, automakers stuck to business. The Europeans, the Asians and the Detroit companies realized that this is not the year for a lot of hoopla.
General Motors and Chrysler were playing to Washington as much as to the press, and their events were aimed in that direction.
It was an electric show. There were more cars of all shapes and sizes that were hybrids or completely electric. They were all extolled. Ironically, with gasoline still at less than $2 a gallon, those are not the sorts of vehicles that Americans are looking forward to buying and driving. Americans have short memories, and the demand for pickups and SUVs is quietly ramping up again. It may be temporary, but it demonstrates that to be successful in the United States, you must have a broad array of vehicles, from 45-mpg economy cars to high-horsepower trucks.
The trick will be learning how to switch production back and forth as U.S. consumer tastes change with each crisis.
The Detroit show proved that product is still king as automakers from around the world showed the latest and greatest vehicles that will be available sometime later.
We saw cars making a comeback after a couple of decades of pickups and SUVs. Of course, small vehicles, from passenger cars to crossovers, were highly visible.
But what American consumers and the politicians from Washington want Detroit to produce are quite different. It shows how difficult, if not impossible, it will be to make everyone happy.
Washington politicians, who know nothing about the car industry and demonstrated that clearly during the televised congressional hearings, are trying to impose their will on the Detroit automobile companies. They may be successful, but they will be wrong and will only hasten the further erosion of consumer sales.
It was a show worth attending and one that Geneva no doubt will emulate. In Detroit, it's mpg. In Europe, it's kilometers per liter.