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Detroit seen as watershed event

2010-01-12 08:26

Pierre Steyn

So the first day of the Detroit Motorshow has come and gone, and judging by the cars on the stands and the speeches of motoring executives I’m not sure if I’m in Frankfurt or Geneva instead of the American Midwest.

The American Big Three – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – have all turned to Europe for their salvation. Ford’s trumpeting their Euro designed Fiesta and Focus, GM their Spark, Cruze and Aveo and Chrysler... uhm Chrysler’s not saying anything.

With sales of Chrysler vehicles in the USA plummeting to levels last seen in 1962 and precious little product in the pipeline, Chrysler was the only big American carmaker not to have a press conference. The Euro influence (Chrysler is now owned by Italy’s Fiat) was still clear to all and sundry on the Chrysler stand. Two Fiat 500’s, a Ferrari and a Maserati took pride of place – flanked by Dodges, Jeeps and Chryslers.

Even though the show is smaller and more subdued than in the past, it’s a fascinating reflection of how radically the motoring world has changed in the last year. The focus is green, small, European and definitely electric.

Of course there’s still some serious muscle on show with a new Ford Mustang GT 5.0 litre V8, the Cadillac GTS Coupe and Chevy’s Corvettes and Camaros defending their ground, but the stars of the show were either small or hybrids.

Stars of the show up to now have been the above mentioned Focus, but also Honda’s production version of its CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe. It goes on sale in the States in a few months time and it should make its way to our shores some time later.

One of my other favourites was Volkswagen’s new Compact Coupe, a beautiful hybrid penned by Walter de Silva that extends the design of the Scirocco into a slightly more conservative package. Although it only sips 4.2l/100km and emits only 98 grams of CO2, it will reach 227km/h and do the 0-100kph sprint in 8.1 seconds.

Both the Honda CR-Z and the VW Compact Coupe are huge steps in making hybrids desirable and fun to drive. I wouldn’t mind having any one of them in my garage.

The second Audi etron was also revealed here in Detroit, and I’m glad to say it looks a lot better than the first one. The new Mercedes Benz E-Class convertible also caught my eye. I’m not a huge fan of drop tops and the design of the E is not one of my favourites, but this car looks the business.

Even though they are dinosaurs, I still love muscle cars so I took some time hopping from the Chevy Corvette ZR1 to the Camaro SS, the new Ford Mustang GT 5.0 litre and the Dodge Challenger. Who knows if they’re still going to be around next year.


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