Jan 12, 2010

Detroit puts faith in the small car

YOU know the car industry is changing when you can spend an entire day at the Detroit motor show and not hear the words "pick-up truck" or "sports utility", and the only brands talking about V8s are European.

The American car-makers, traumatised by the events of last year when two of the three had near-death experiences, have found a new religion: small cars. They are worshipping with the zeal of converts and used the Detroit motor show, which opened overnight Australian time, to parade their faith.

Small cars, together with hybrids and electric vehicles, dominated the traditional curtain-raiser to the automotive year like never before. This year's Detroit show was both a measure of the depth of the predicament the global car industry found itself in last year and a chart of its recovery.

Exhibitor numbers were up from last year but the compact Cobo Hall, which in previous years has been crammed with mega-structures representing every brand on sale stateside, has gone low-rise and looked more like a parking lot. Most of the upscale marques and many of the Japanese makers stayed away, leaving more than enough room for those that turned up. Ford got 40 per cent more space this year and it was not alone.

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