It's a Happy Green World at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show
It was a completely different Auto Show atmosphere in Detroit this week than it was at November's Los Angeles Auto Show, and we're not talking about the weather.
Even though Los Angeles was sunny and Detroit was snowy, the attitudes of show participants were quite the opposite. The Detroit Auto Show was extremely optimistic, thanks to a TARP-funded resuscitation and new plans to create better, greener vehicles. Los Angelinos were so burdened by the weight of potential industry failures that some manufacturers didn't even bother to turn on their display lights.
Even though several manufacturers cut back their complicated displays and presentations, eliminated giveaways, or chose not to participate at all, those who did attend presented a variety of upbeat new perspectives as well as an assortment of new production and concept vehicles driven by new eco-friendly powertrains.
General Motors opened the event accompanied by a cheering crowd of 650 employees holding placards announcing their commitment to the company with sayings like "here to stay" and "charged up." Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner introduced a parade of iconic GM vehicles from Chevrolet, Buick, and Pontiac illustrating the variety of vehicles in the corporate lineup, and demonstrating how GM offers more choices and serves more customers than any other car company in America.
On the second day, Wagoner announced GM's forward-thinking plan to produce its own electric batteries for the Volt saying "The design, development and production of advanced batteries must be a core competency for GM, and we've been rapidly building our capability and resources to support this direction." Wagoner continued "This is a further demonstration of our commitment to the electrification of the automobile and to the Chevrolet Volt - a commitment that now totals more than $1 billion." Saturn sent off a convoy of Vue Hybrids via college campuses on the "Road to Change" to Washington, DC, to deliver a message to President-elect Obama and to help out with transportation for dignitaries at the inauguration.
Ford surprised many journalists by announcing their own brand-new "Electrification Plan," which will roll out (over the next few years) a collection of Pure Battery Electric, Plug-In Hybrid, and Traditional Hybrid powertrains with a range of up to 100 miles per charge. Ford also promised that the EcoBoost engine (which premiered at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show) would be available across 90 percent of all North American products by 2013. The EcoBoost engine utilizes a combination of direct injection and turbocharging to deliver as much as 20 percent better fuel economy. Among their concept and production car reveals, Ford's completely redesigned 2010 Taurus flagship sedan raised quite a stir, as did its gorgeous woman-focused Lincoln C Concept. If you're a fan of the upcoming new Fiesta, then you'll also want to checkout fiestamovement.com for your chance to be one of the first to drive this new vehicle when it arrives.
Calling it a "Coming out party for what the new Chrysler is going to be," Chrysler demonstrated a collection of electric-vehicle prototypes based on existing production Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models. Using technology from its existing GEM division, Chrysler is poised to launch a collection of Pure Battery Electric, Plug-In Hybrid, and Traditional Hybrid vehicles, some of them promising a range as high as 150 miles on a single charge. They also demonstrated the amazing 200C concept which promises a future of remarkable in-car social networking. (Could be a techsister to the lovely Lincoln C concept!) In a more surreal moment, a piece of the Chrysler display fell from overhead, while the showgoer standing nearby walked on, thankfully oblivious to how he had almost been bashed by the falling Pentastar.
A highlight of the show was a giant 70,000-square-foot track in the basement, on which visitors could drive an assortment of zero-emissions hybrid and electric cars and SUVs. Funded by the state's economic development corporation as well as the North American International Auto Show, the "Michigan EcoXperience" features vehicles from General Motors, Ford, Mitsubishi, Tesla, and others. While electric vehicles are normally emissions-free, the fleet of hybrid vehicles were operated at speeds low enough to keep them in their all-electric modes, so the track was both eerily quiet and refreshingly exhaust free. Journalists at press preview days were able to drive cars on the track (after passing a breathalyzer exam), but the public will only be allowed to ride with professional drivers, said co-chairman Doug Fox. A 10-mph speed limit and crash barriers will keep that forest roadway accident free.
Detroit has hosted an auto show for over a century; Now held annually at Cobo Hall, this year's event will be open to the public through Saturday, January 24, 2009 from 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. and on Sunday, January 25, 2009 from 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $6 for Senior Citizen (65 and older) and Children 7-12. Children 6 and under are free with their parent.
Chrysler display photo by Robb Hunter
Jill Ladjiak, EcoXperience photos courtesy NAIAS media site
Chevrolet employee photo courtesy GM Media site
All other photos by Brandy Schaffels