TO DIF­FER­ENT TUNE

NT News - Motoring - - NEWS -

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

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