Currently reading: Detroit motor show 2012: full show report and pics
Full report and picture gallery from this year's Detroit motor show

That's it. It's over. I’m not referring to the 2012 Detroit motor show, which runs until January 22, rather the fact that Motown's show will never return to its pre-2005 shape as a simple showpiece for the latest products of the Big Three US car makers.

Even though Detroit remains very much home for GM, Ford and Chrysler, and even though the mighty trio will put close to 10 million cars and trucks on American roads this year, it is now clear that the influence, finance, confidence and know-how of foreign car manufacturers will henceforward be crucial to success at Detroit.

Take the case of the new Dodge Dart, the compact sports sedan currently winning notice for its sporty character and low-slung all-American shape. It's actually an Alfa Giulietta underneath. Not only that, its chassis is likely soon to become the basis of a mid-sized sedan to be built by Chrysler in China, for sale both there and on export markets. And all this will take place under the management of as many Italians as Americans. The car is a truly international effort - and so is Ford's much admired new sedan flagship, the Fusion (eventually to be the 2013 Mondeo), which is actually the work of designers and engineers so disparate in origin that they defy classification.

Happily, this co-operation across borders is breeding success. The new Ford looks, inside and out, more like a premium car than ever, and an ideal replacement for the current Mondeo that continues ton earn plaudits. The Dodge, despite a hint of the jelly-mould about its flanks, has enough about it to please the traditionalists. Add to this GM's impressively taut and compact new Cadillac ATS (in size, if not spirit, successor to the unlamented BLS) and you have three credible, desirable saloons. One demerit for the Cadillac; once again GM talking about going European without waiting for a diesel to come on stream. Note from your man on the doorstep: it can't work.

Bentley don't have diesels yet, either, but they constructively showed their new 4.0 litre turbo V8 engine, plus some two-door Continental models subtly redecorated to take it. Without quite promising it, they made it clear that the new car will go close to halving the the 6.0 litre W12's fuel consumption, while still delivering huge performance. Mercedes were also talking high performance efficiency: their new aluminium-magnesium SL takes the long-lived two-seater model back to the realms of genuine sports cars from which it departed a couple of decades ago.

BMW showed the new 3-series, no longer news in Europe but certain to be successful in the US as it is wherever rational motorists can be found. Hyundai re-nosed the Genesis coupe and showed a turbo version of their oddball Veloster, a move that happily helps demonstrate that performance isn't something they'll shy away from forever.

King of the concepts? For me, Honda hit the high spot with its long-awaited NSX hybrid "two electric" supercar concept, which shows (as if we didn't know) that it has always needed a super-efficient performance flagship. Making it in the US makes sense if it to find the buyers the old model lacked, but we are disappointed to learn the car is still nearly three years away. Will it ever be closer? Lexus also excelled via the beautiful LF-LC hybrid coupe, which the company says carries the design cues ofva string of new production models. Bring 'em on!

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Also impressive was the Smart For-us concept, ostensibly a neat-looking plug-in pick-up for carrying electric bikes, but considerably more important than that. Its wheelbase had been extended by 40cm, which showed that the four-seater version hinted at under a forthcoming Daimler - Renault cooperation could indeed be built using the existing rear-engined mechanical layout.

Opinions varied about GM's oddly-named Californian concepts (Code 130R rear drive, four-seat coupe and Tru 140S front drive coupe) but to me they looked rushed and didn't match the Honda-Lexus-Smart standard or significance. One hopeful official referred to the 140S to a GM equivalent of the Peugeot RCZ - which only goes to prove that in 2012 Detroit, optimism remains alive and well.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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carnut 10 January 2012

Re: UPDATED: Detroit show in pictures

Is it just me or the picture section in all Autocar articles is absolutely crap, the pictures are small and slow to load, other car websites are so much better. Autocar website is very low tech and old, i love autocar and dont wanna migrate to other magazines, please make the website better.

bomb 10 January 2012

Re: UPDATED: Detroit show in pictures

Unfortunately, I had to go to Auto Express to get more than one picture of the pretty Chevy Tru 140S concept. Shames the under-exposed attempt on Autocar's picture list for what is the prettiest car at the show.

Engelbert 10 January 2012

Re: UPDATED: Detroit show in pictures

For me, the two stand-out cars out of this lot are Ford Mondeo and BMW 3-Series - yet both are evolutionary rather than completely new products. Nothing wrong with that! E