Toyota drew a 2000-plus crowd at its reveal of three new Prius variants. In fact the Riverside Ballroom venue at Cobo was so rammed that late-comers were shut out.
As a symbol of the iron grip that Toyota has over the US car industry, the huge interest reinforced the point, even though Toyota is still under the cloud of its safety recalls.
Tellingly boss Akio Toyota kicked off the event with a personal appearance and speech, his first public appearance since facing up to Larry King in April in the depths of the recall crisis.
Also tellingly, Mr Toyota didn’t stay to the end of the conference to face the more tiger-ish elements of the US press, who can still smell the blood of the recall story.
Two new Prius models might divert some of the attention in the direction of new product. The first is the V, a high-roof five-seater in the mould of the Renault Megane and slated for production. The second is the C, a concept for a 3.8m-long Fiesta-sized hatch, designed in Europe, and promising 60mpg economy on the US test cycle.
Mixed in with those unveils was the announcement of a new $50m (£32.2m) safety centre in Michigan to help Toyota recover its reputation with US car-buyers.
Although on the face of it, the recall hasn’t really dented sales. So far the US has taken around half of the two million Prius models made and the hybrid is Toyota’s third best-seller in the US behind the Camry and Corolla.
In December the Prius sold over 15k units to out-sell the Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu. Not bad for a ‘geek-mobile’ as Toyota gleefully pointed out.
In the tenth year of Prius sales in the US, Toyota even felt confident enough to poke fun at the old Big Three who greeted the launch of the Prius with disdain. So Toyota flashed up a picture of Bob Lutz, who was famously quoted as describing the Prius as an ‘engineering curiosity’.