DETROIT — A walk around the floor of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit leaves you with one message: The U.S. auto industry, which nearly collapsed six years ago, is back with as much flash as ever.
Multi-story exhibits have been under construction since October. There are giant video screens, including one that is 140-foot-long at the Infiniti stand. And there’s an elaborate Buick exhibit with two-story arches strong enough to hold the company’s new convertible above the ground.
With house-like construction that includes sophisticated lighting, stages and the video screens, a few exhibits will cost around $20 million, said Bobby Whiting the show’s construction manager. “There’s nothing here less than a million (dollars),” says Michael Cherubin, project manager on the Audi exhibit.
The exhibits will showcase new models that likely will make millions for companies as sales continue to grow in North America, China and many other markets.
Organizers are still tallying the number of new models to be unveiled, but say it’s likely to top the 47 that were rolled out last year in Detroit. Among them are two new pickup trucks from Japanese automakers designed to take on Detroit rivals, three sporty new convertibles trying to take advantage of growing disposable incomes, and a 2.0 version of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car.
The show opens to the media Monday, Jan. 12, at the Cobo Center in Detroit. The public show opens Saturday, Jan. 17, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 25.
Here’s a rundown of what to expect this year:
CONVERTIBLES: As the economy improves, U.S. buyers have the discretionary income to spend on something a little less practical, like a convertible. Buick will unveil a European drop-top at this year’s auto show, and Alfa Romeo is expected to show a convertible version of its sporty 4C coupe. BMW will reveal an updated convertible version of its 6 Series sedan.
ELECTRIC CARS/HYBRIDS: Sales of hybrids and electric cars took a hit last year as gas prices fell. But with more stringent federal fuel economy rules on the horizon, automakers are still under pressure to make their vehicles more efficient. General Motors will debut a new version of its plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. It’s the Volt’s first update since it went on sale in 2010. Audi will show off a plug-in hybrid version of its Q7 SUV, which mates an electric battery to a diesel engine. Hyundai will reveal hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its Sonata sedan. Even Acura’s new NSX supercar gets a power boost from its hybrid engine.
TRUCKS: U.S. pickup truck sales are booming as the economy improves, and automakers are expanding and improving offerings in a bid to grab a bigger slice of this lucrative market. Toyota — under threat from the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon — hopes to defend its leadership of the small pickup market with a redesigned Tacoma. It’s the Tacoma’s first revamping since 2005. Nissan will show a new version of its Titan full-size truck in an effort to crack a market that’s still dominated by Detroit. And Ram will debut the Rebel, a sporty, youth-oriented version of its 1500 pickup.
LUXURY: Sales of luxury cars outpaced sales of mainstream models in the U.S. last year, and they’re expected to do the same this year. Jaguar, Volvo and Porsche are all expected to unveil new models in Detroit. Maserati has two concept cars. Lincoln will show its new MKX crossover, while Infiniti will debut its Q60 concept coupe.
PERFORMANCE CARS: With Detroit out of bankruptcy and the economy steadily improving, the show will have an exuberance it lacked six years ago when the bottom fell out from under the market. High-speed performance cars match the mood. General Motors will show the Cadillac CTS-V, the most powerful vehicle in Cadillac’s 112-year history. Its supercharged V8 gets 640 horsepower and has a top speed of 200 mph. BMW will show its new M6 performance coupe as well as the Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop, which is billed as the fastest Mini ever. Lexus promises a track-ready high-performance F version of its GS sedan.
BY DEE-ANN DURBIN and TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writers