Detroit auto show unveils innovative models

Dylan Boyle and Eric Gleason — S

Local auto dealers are hopeful new products being introduced at the Detroit auto show will be the future and play a part in turning the industry around.

Starting last week, automakers from around the world gathered at the Cobo Center in Detroit for the 2010 North American International Auto Show. With over half a million visitors each year, NAIAS is among the largest auto shows on the planet, and gives the industry a chance to debut its upcoming production vehicles and futuristic concept cars to the public.

This year, over 700 vehicles will be on display, including 60 new models for 2011. Some of these include the Cadillac CTS Coupe, Buick Regal GS, and Honda CR-Z. Redesigns of existing models are also on display, such as the Ford Focus, Lincoln MKX and Volvo C30. Also new at this year’s show was Electric Avenue — a special display exclusively featuring hybrid and electric cars.

Danny Wilson, manager of Wilson Toyota-Scion Cadillac, 2212 S. Duff Ave., recently had the opportunity to meet with the president and CEO of Toyota USA, Yoshimi Inaba, along with the president and director of Scion, Jack Hollis, at a meeting held in Kansas City.

With the auto show in full swing, new products were a main point of discussion.

“Their outlook on the industry is generally a lot better than last year,” Wilson said. “There was a greater sense of optimism, especially for upcoming small cars, green cars and interior electronics.”

Wilson shared their enthusiasm, as alternative energy forms a growing role at his dealership.

“For Toyota in general, electrics and hybrids will be a very substantial part of our future,” Wilson said. “Fortunately we were able to lead the way with the Prius hybrid. When it arrived six years ago, no one would’ve guessed the impact it has made in the industry today. Consumers are willing to give up vehicle size, power and creature features for better fuel economy. It’s estimated that soon Prius could outsell the Camry, the number one selling car in America.”

Todd Lee, sales manager at George White Chevrolet-Pontiac, 1719 S. High Ave., said American companies like General Motors and Ford are “coming on strong” with the vehicles they are releasing at the show.

He said cars like the Chevy Volt, which goes into production this year, could help the industry if gas prices continue to rise, since the Volt can drive 300 miles on electric power only.

While Honda and Toyota have led in the hybrid market, Lee said American auto manufacturers are now really starting to compete with the foreign dealers and are just as energy efficient. One advantage American companies have, he said, is they can go back and market cars with a “retro” look.

Innovations in the accessories that are featured in cars are also a big part of the show, Lee said.

Lee said he hopes the auto show will help turn the industry around and said it’s always good for business when a “new and exciting” product hits the market.