Columnist Tom Walsh wrote this hopeful piece for the Detroit Free Press last Friday:
Sorry for the silliness, but after the catastrophic tailspin of 2008, just reaching the midpoint of January 2009 without another major shock to the Detroit automotive scene feels like a giddy victory.
As the black-tie crowd shivers its way into Cobo Center tonight for the Detroit auto show’s Charity Preview, it’s clear that the 2009 show looks like a two-thumbs-up hit for Ford and General Motors, with even a few kind words from the critics for a concept shown by much-maligned Chrysler.
Yes, yes, there were low expectations for the Detroit Three and the Detroit show — with Nissan, Mitsubishi and others AWOL — and there’s a lot of treacherous terrain ahead. But let’s take a day or two to appreciate what went well this week.
First, Detroit’s not dead yet. Just as every morning we wake up is a good morning, it’s an accomplishment of sorts that the cars and trucks, the models, the thousands of journalists, converged upon Cobo on schedule this week, just as they do every January. At least we have a show, which may be more than you can say for Tokyo, where the big biennial motor show this October may be canceled.
Second, Ford and GM, two of Detroit’s walking-dead dinosaurs as described by southern senators in rescue loan hearings in Washington, D.C., have looked almost sprightly this week.
Ford took North American Truck of the Year honors with the 2009 F-150 and came within a whisker of winning the top car prize with the Flex. It might have won, too, except some judges don’t consider the family hauler to be a car.
The 2010 Ford Taurus (pictured) looks to be exactly what recent impostors were not. Curvy on the outside and packed with edgy new technology and interior features, the 2010 edition looks like a worthy successor to the nameplate that saved Ford’s bacon in the 1980s.
GM, though saddled with a heavier debt load than Ford and with $13.4 billion in new bridge loans from the U.S. Treasury, still managed to impress with new products, from the tiny new Chevrolet Spark micro-car aimed at U.S. shores in 2011 to the Cadillac Converj electric luxury coupe concept.
So lyrical were GM design chief Ed Welburn’s words describing the contours of the Converj that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee critic of Detroit’s automakers, proclaimed Welburn “a poet” during the senator’s tour of Cobo Tuesday.
Chrysler LLC has abandoned the old mountain-and-waterfall Jeep display that had anchored the midsection of previous shows. And there were no outlandish antics, such as cattle drives and crashing vehicles through glass, which marked Chrysler media events at past shows.
Still, despite a consensus among the media pundits that Chrysler won’t survive the year in anything resembling its current corporate form, the carmaker won some praise for the 200C electric concept. Automotive Web site Jalopnik called the 200C “shockingly attractive.”
We’ll have to be happy with that, for now.
Detroit Free Press
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