Detroit: The glitz returns to the Detroit auto show on Monday as US automakers celebrate a remarkable recovery and rising sales after years of painful restructuring and the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler.
The motor city has been under the pall of the Detroit Three’s (General Motors ,Chrysler and Ford) decline amid a steady loss of market share to Asian rivals and the worst economic downtown in decades.
Factories were closed, suppliers went out of business, iconic brands were shed and millions of jobs disappeared across the country.
But after hitting rock bottom in 2009 with sales at their lowest level since the recession of 1983 and GM and Chrysler forced into a government-backed bankruptcy, sales began to improve in 2010 and a leaner Detroit Three began to reap the rewards.
“They really have had an incredible renaissance,” Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said in an interview.
GM posted a $2 billion third quarter profit and then launched the biggest initial public stock offering in history in November.
Chrysler, which didn’t even host a press conference at the show last year because its product offerings were so old and weak, managed to increase its market share in 2010 and will be introducing two highly anticipated new models on Monday.
Ford, the only one of the Detroit Three to survive the deepest downturn in decades without government aid, regained the number two spot in the US market from Toyota for 2010 after its share grew for the second year in a row.
The sense of relief is palpable.
“There’s a level of optimism, particularly from the domestics (automakers) that we haven’t seen in a long time,” David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan said.
With sales forecast to grow significantly both in the US and worldwide and Toyota still smarting from a series of mass recalls, the prospects for big gains are good.
“For those who are ready to move quickly, the opportunity to grow business both here and abroad are tremendous,” Steve Carlisle, vice president of global product planning for General Motors said on Sunday at the SAA Automotive Outlook Conference.
The competition is fierce.
More than a dozen automakers will vie for the attention of 4,500 journalists on Monday with the worldwide debuts of some 30 to 40.
Daimler got the party started early, bring in a jazz crooner to entertain journalists while models poured custom cocktails and offered foie gras canapes.
“A product offensive is in full swing,” chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche said as he unveiled the latest offerings from Mercedes-Benz.
“We except 2011 to be an excellent year.”
Volkswagen also threw a lavish party late on Sunday as it works to ramp up sales in the world’s second largest automotive market amid a strategy to overtake Toyota for the top spot worldwide.
“We became a marginal player in the United States,” said Jonathan Browning, head of VW’s US operations.
“That’s no longer acceptable.”
VW will unveil its much anticipated new medium sedan - the nms - on Monday which will be built at a new factory in Tennessee.
There will be a continued focus on green cars at the show as automakers revamp their lineup to meet tough new emissions standards.
Toyota will be expanding its popular ‘Prius’ hybrid with the introduction of a new wagon and executives are expected to make a big announcement about future products.
GM will launch its new subcompact , the ‘Chevy Sonic’, introduce a new compact ‘Buick’ and is also expected to tout its plug-in hybrid Chevy ‘Volt’ which recently hit showrooms.
Ford will display its all-electric ‘Focus’ which was introduced last week in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronic Show, Tesla will be showing off a luxury electric sedan and Chinese automaker BYD will be pitching a compact E6 electric sedan which is scheduled to hit dealerships this year.
Luxury car fans will get plenty to see at the show.
Porsche has returned after a four year absence with the introduction of a new ‘Spyder’ coup, BMW is showing several new models including the ‘650i’ convertible, and Daimler will show a new ‘Mercedes-Benz C’ class sedan. Audi and Bentley will also be making an appearance.
Several “concept” vehicles are also expected, including a boxy crossover by Kia with gullwing doors, a new version of Honda’s popular ‘Civic sedan’, and a beefy crossover by Mini.
The North American International Auto Show launches with a press preview on Monday. It opens to the public on 15 January and runs through 23 January.