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2010 Detroit Auto Show: The countown

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Welcome to sunny Detroit! Tomorrow the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) begins. Most of us motoring writers—or ‘Muttering rotters’ as the late, great English journalist Phil Llewellyn dubbed his cohorts—just call it the Detroit Show and get on with it.

Tonight Suzuki and Infiniti try to grab some good will by hosting pre-parties, and those of us who are here are very thankful for it, as going out on your own in downtown Motown is not to be contemplated lightly. This year’s show is very exciting, as so many changes are going on in the car business. General Motors and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, electric cars are the Next Big Thing, and carbon footprint vs. horsepower are just a few of the themes I expect to be big tomorrow and Tuesday.

Despite the smaller role the Detroit 3 (formally the Big 3) play in the automotive universe these days, this is still the most important show on the calendar for the manufacturers. The LA Show would like to be seen as a bigger deal—and we’d all rather go there—but it hasn’t quite come of age yet. And China’s burgeoning auto industry and vehicle sales (which outpaced the U.S.’s last year) mean their show this spring in Beijing is vital to figuring the future of the business. But for now, Detroit is where the action is.

Some of the cars, trucks, and SUVs that I’m excited about are Audi’s new A8 lagship and E-Tron electric supercar, the Bentley Mulsanne, Buick’s first hotrod since the GNX, the Regal GS (with AWD and 325hp), Chevy’s Aveo RS Concept, Cruze, and Camaro Convertible, Ford’s freshened Super Duty, Mustang 5-liter, production Focus and Fiesta, Hyundai’s new Sonata, the Jaguar XJ series, the Mazda 2, and various Volvos. Sadly absent will be Saab.

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