As a lover of car shows, I usually have no time for people who complain about them. But in Detroit's Cobo Hall yesterday, home of Motown's annual Auto Show, I was temporarily forced to give ground to the wry Fleet Street type voicing his European-centric view of preview day. "Frankly," he said after a moment's thought, "I'd say there was less to this than meets the eye..."
It was certainly a weird sort of opening day at the Detroit motor show, but don't think the show lacks any significance or importance because of it. There's nothing sinister at foot, though. The US car market has recovered to 15 million units a year, fully 50 per cent ahead of the dark days of 2008. It's just that many models are between cycles - and the Germans and Brits last year chose to show their new stuff at the Paris motor show.
However, all this left the field entirely open for GM's terrific new 2014 Corvette, the 2013 show's undisputed star and a really great piece of work that everyone loved. GM's head of design Ed Welburn (who admits to being inspired to become a car designer as a kid by the cool single guy next door who had a '54 Vette) clearly loved the car so much he spent the whole day standing near it, answering questions. "I've got lots of people to see," he confided, "but I guess they'll to know to look for me here..."
GM's only other significant Monday offing was a revised Silverado pick-up, complete with an even taller and chromier grille, but it's firmly back in the headlines on day two wit the revealing of the Cadillac ELR coupe, a beautiful production machine featuring Volt/Ampera range extender mechanical bits.
GM's bosses have high hopes for this car, which they reckon will appeal to luxury car lovers with a conscience. The company, battling to expand its premium brand against the might of the Germans, was greatly buoyed yesterday morning when it won America's Car of the Year Award with the stylish and capable ATS saloon.
For the first time in living memory Ford (billed as America's favourite car company for not needing a government bail-out like GM and Chrysler) did not open proceedings with lots of new-model razzmatazz in the Cobo Arena, home of the local Red Wings ice hockey team. But through the launch of its new Atlas concept - a preview at the replacement for the F150, America's best-selling car or truck - in the Red Wings arena it that has ensured it stays in the headlines on the second press day.
Still, it felt funny that Lincoln had taken Ford's conference position at Detroit this year. Aston and Lotus weren't even there, and Mercedes confused everyone by revealing their (superb) little CLA saloon at a pre-show event, while not even putting it on display in the halls. Weird, that, especially since they'll start taking orders in a few months' time. Chrysler and Jeep restricted themselves to putting nondescript new noses on some models - though their tills keep ringing.
Ford's premium brand, Lincoln, lately in even worse sales shape than Cadillac, showed a beautiful compact SUV built on Kuga underpinnings, called the MKC Concept. To my eye it is a masterful piece of work, restrained yet elegant and "valuable" at the same time. If future Lincolns can have the charisma of this one then maybe America is indeed be on its way to showing again that it can build premium cars.
For now, there's still plenty to prove, but with the European firms taking a back seat in Detroit, the home-grown car makers are being given a chance to shine again.
Keep checking Autocar.co.uk over the next few days as the covers come off all the show stars in Detroit, where Autocar's team of reporters and photographers will be on hand to make sure you don't miss any of the action.