At the pizazz-challenged auto show in Detroit, the Germans emerged as the life of the party.
Unlike the cost-cutting American and Asian automakers, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW sounded cautiously optimistic as they unveiled new vehicles and hosted lively parties.
In a ballroom of the newly renovated Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, a Detroit landmark, Mercedes showed the redesigned E class for 2010, along with a $1 million-plus SLR Stirling Moss supercar and three alternative-energy cars under the BlueZero logo.
Then hundreds of journalists moved upstairs to a lounge with bars where waiters brought salad, Chilean sea bass, lobster risotto, short ribs, potatoes and dessert.
In a speech to the gathering, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, vowed to keep spending.
"We won't put our long-term success on the line with short-term budget cuts," he said. "That's why our r&d budget is one of the largest in the automotive industry, and we intend to keep it that way."