LOOKING GOOD: Mercedes' Dieter Zetsche introduces the GLE 63 Coupe (left)) and GLE 450 AMG Coupe in Detroit.. The auto show will open to the public from January 17-25. Image: AFP / Scott Olsen
DETROIT, Michigan - The world's top vehicle manufacturers were putting finishing touches to their extravagant display stands on Sunday (Jan 11) and there was no mistaking the prevailing sense of optimism and anticipation.
In 2014, the US auto industry clocked up its best year in sales in nearly a decade and, with the low cost of fuel and low interest rates, has created what analysts are calling a near-perfect storm.
With host Detroit now on the long road to recovery after the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, experts are expecting the North American International Auto Show to let its hair down.
40 NEW MODELS
More than 40 new car and truck models are booked to go on display from today (Monday Jan 12) when the show opens to the media. All the talk points to the luxury sector as being the one to watch.
Mercedes-Benz chief Dieter Zetsche said on Sunday while presenting the new GLE Coupe - a hefty combination of power and luxury - at an upscale city-centre hotel: "I'm convinced the US economy and auto market are on the same upward trajectory as the city of Detroit."
Much of the pre-show buzz has surrounded a new incarnation of Honda's legendary Acura NSX supercar and Ford was expected to roll out one of its own in the shape of an eagerly awaited new GT.
Scott Burgess, Detroit editor at Motor Trend, said: "The NSX is going to be beautiful. This is what you go into motor journalism for. You could almost have a motor show just for the NSX."
Ford's refusal to give any information away has served only to whet appetites and increase speculation.
"Ford has been the quietest in not telling us what they have," Burgess said.
Not to be outdone, Cadillac will show off its most powerful product in the brand's 112-year history, the new 477kW CTS-V. And then there will be Lexus with it GS-F performance sedan.GOOD AND BAD
Ravi Shanker, executive director and lead auto analyst at Morgan Stanley, said: "It's a very exciting time to be a luxury brand in the US. Luxury cars are making inroads into the mass market."
Brian Bolain, corporate marketing manager, Lexus division, told the same Society of Automotive Analysts' conference on Sunday: "Luxury is about the brand, always has been, and will continue to be so."
But while the overall mood in Detroit is overwhelmingly more positive than in recent memory it is not all good news. The European market "continues to bomb", said Shanker, while emerging markets in Brazil and Russia "are struggling a bit".
And while the low price of fuel is drawing buyers back to performance vehicles, there is a downside to that too, said Shanker.
"It's good because there are more dollars in consumers' pockets," he said, "but then it's bad because lots of the US economy depends on the fuel and oil industry."
And then there is the sensitive issue of recalls - a record 60-million vehicles in the US in 2014, with GM in particular in the spotlight over an ignition problem linked to dozens of deaths.
But amid all the gleam and muscle on display, nobody was talking about recalls as the show poised to open.
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Detroit auto show.