Currently reading: Detroit show report + pics
Steve Cropley reports, plus latest show pics and launch details of all the key cars

Ask yourself the following question: what would you have said a year ago if you’d learned that in 2010, at the Detroit Motor Show, the latest Ferraris and Maseratis would be exhibited as part of a vast Chrysler group exhibit, with Ram trucks on one side, Jeep off-roaders on the other, and a new Lancia Delta – familiar except for its new Chrysler badge and grille – would be parked just yards away on the same piece of carpet?

Obviously, you wouldn’t have believed it. Yet this week in the Motor City it happened. Such have been the monumental changes in the car industry this past 18 months that practically anything seems possible.

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Who got it right and wrong?

Fiat now controls Chrysler, but for US consumption it has to look the other way around, so the Fiat Group is using all its assets – including the great marques of Modena and Maranello – to give legs to the extraordinary new deal. It made one of the most remarkable motor industry sights of modern times, but we’d better get used to it. Mercurial Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne clearly intends to spare no resource to make his dubious enterprise work (where mighty Daimler failed) though he did seem err badly on the first day of the show by hob-nobbing too long with visiting US politicians and failing to turn up at a scheduled call for local press and TV, leaving slighted hacks spitting chips. He now has fence-mending to do.

Ford, by heavy contrast, got it exactly right. They used the hugely popular architect of their strengthening sales and fiscal recovery, Alan Mulally, to unveil the undoubted star of the show, a very pretty and very plausible third generation Focus, and then announced that both the regular (albeit very frugal) versions and a new battery-powered model would be manufactured right there in Michigan from late 2010 – because cost-cutting efficiencies and a new deal with the United Auto Workers union have made the manufacture of cheaper cars viable in the US again.

The Focus makes its appearance just as Americans are deciding that they really must embrace smaller cars for good (Ford marketeers expect a high proportion of F-series pick-ups as trade-ins) and as the price of petrol takes a climb from which there will be no return.

Detroit industry analysts (some looking down-at-heel because the industry has decided it can do without them) say Ford is benefiting greatly from positive buyer sentiment, as the only one of the American Big Three not to have taken bail-out billions from the US government. And to have a simple, plausible and already-half-delivered ‘One Ford’ plan which will bring Europe’s Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo – and their offshoots – to the US more or less unaltered. By contrast GM’s stand was as quiet as a grave, even though it contained a decent-looking Aveo RS and the GMC Granite, a very promising MPV concept based on the Chevrolet Orlando.

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Europeans left in the shade

Though America seems to be warming again to European design (GM also trumpeted a new Buick Regal, which is actually a turbocharged Opel/Vauxhall Insignia) the European marques themselves were bit players at 2010 Detroit. Bentley’s Mulsanne looked impressive, but not quite as good as the standard-setting Rolls-Royce Ghost. Audi revealed a TT-sized mid-engined electric coupe, VW showed a pretty two-door Jetta and BMW has the electric 1-series, but all were out of the mainstream. There was a pretty Yaris-sized Toyota concept and a production-ready Honda CRZ hybrid (disappointing after the exuberance of the much-disoplayed concept) and Kia and Hyundai did their best.

But there was no getting away from it: Ford showed everyone the way. It won both categories of America’s Car of the Year competition (for Ford Fusion hybrid and Transit Connect) and unveiled a couple of nice-looking Mustang upgrades. But its class act was the launch of a new, state-of-the-art European C-segment hatch, along with plausible plans to make it much, much bigger across the world than ever before.

And it hardly hurt the mood when the company’s financial people let slip that in every division of its business around the world, Ford was profitable for the latest quarter. That news really gave the whole place a lift. Ford was proving that car manufacture could be viable tomorrow (a matter that has been in doubt lately) and the whole industry – to a greater or lesser extent – enjoyed their success.

Latest news from the show floorAutocar’s bloggers give their reaction to the show

Detroit motor show 2010

Detroit motor show: Hot BMW Z4, Detroit motor show: BMW electric 1-series, Detroit motor show: Buick Regal GS, Detroit motor show: Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, Detroit motor show: Cadillac's new flagship saloon, Detroit motor show: Chevrolet Aveo RS, Detroit motor show: Chrysler 300C, Detroit motor show: electric Fiat 500, New Ford Focus revealed, Detroit motor show: Ford Mustang V8, Detroit motor show: Hyundai Blue-Will, Detroit motor show: Jeep specials, Detroit motor show: Merc E-class cabrio, Detroit motor show: Mini Beachcomber, Detroit motor show: Toyota hybrid concept, Detroit motor show: VW Jetta coupe hybrid concept, Detroit motor show: electric Volvo C30.

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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Add a comment…
saintly78 12 January 2010

Re: Live at Detroit motor show

Chrysler Delta?! The Alfa Romeo Arna is back!!!!!!!

The GMC Granite looks good, but as a Saab fan I'm trying not to have any interest in GM products or show any support...

Jim Holder 11 January 2010

Re: Live at Detroit motor show

We're constrained by costs and technology. We're working on it, but it will take time. The pictures are hi-res enough to be hi-res, if not the highest-res on the internet, so that's the description we use on the homepage but not elsewhere now. It's not a perfect solution for the pictures, but it's significantly better than what we could offer last year.

I'm glad you like the stories, as we do our best to add exclusive content from the show. And I'll cheekily add that the pictures are also uploaded much faster than the opposition.

For now, though, can we focus attention on the Detroit show in this thread, and dig out the hi-res picture thread in Any Other Business?

Vidge 123 11 January 2010

Re: Live at Detroit motor show

Jim, i know its been discussed, but i dont think any reason was given as too why you cant offer greater that 612x408. i read autocar write ups and then going to Auto Express for the pictures!!!

Also i dont see how you can still call it "high res pics", as 612 x 408 clearly is not.