TO DIFFERENT TUNE
and the planned sales of Hummer and Saab.
I can see the difference, even if the company compensates with serious concept cars — a couple of great ones from Cadillac, where Aussie Max Wolff is in charge, in particular — that take it back to business.
They are certainly a lot better than some of GM’s recent efforts, and anyone from Australia can feel better about the company’s future with some many of us working in design and engineering and with Mark Reuss, recently the boss of GM Holden, now in charge of North America.
Walking the stands, there are some standouts.
The Mini concept looks great, there is a lovely tease at Mercedes-Benz with a sculpture pointing to the future design direction, and Audi shows it is serious about an electric supercar with another e-tron concept car.
The Chinese cars are predictably Korean-ish, which is fine because the Koreans — with cars like the Hyundai Sonata — have moved conclusively into the Japanese class.
Even the American analysts and journalists now look at Hyundai and Kia to see what they are doing.
At Toyota, now global number one at the expense of GM, the contrasts are huge.
At one end there is a Lexus LFA supercar, in the middle there is the FT-CH hybrid concept, and at the other there is the funky, Scion which is bound for Australia this year.
On my final lap of Detroit 2010 I bump into one of America’s best automotive analysts Jim Hall, and ask him for his take on the show and the most important cars.
‘‘There is a difference between ringing a bell at the show and being significant,’’ he said.
‘‘The most significant are the Ford Focus, because it is a global launch, and the Chevrolet Cruze is equally significant for the same reason.
‘‘Those companies have been forced to change . . . those are really high-water marks for this market.
‘‘But there are other products that have a comparable place, like the Hyundai Sonata.
‘‘In some cases they have surpassed their target rivals.’’
Hall, like most of the visitors to Detroit, can see green shoots and signs of real change.
But he warns that there will not be a short-term bounce-back.
‘‘It is going to be an interesting year, because unfortunately I see a double-dip recession for the United States. There will be a commercial realestate implosion.’’
Outside, as I walk back to the hotel along snowy streets, I can see just how much Detroit has been hit and hurt in recent years. Motown is just a shell of its former self and, even though the car company chiefs still get around in Cadillacs and Lincolns and classy imports, there is rust in far too many of the cars being driven by ordinary Americans.
AUSSIE INSPIRATION: The Aveo RS concept car was built in Melbourne. INSET: The Toyota FT-CH