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2016-01-12 08:40

2016 NORTH AMERICAN AUTO SHOW: Volkswagen's emissions-cheating scandal is threatening to overshadow the North American auto show taking place in Detroit. Image: AP / Markus Schreiber

Detroit - The Volkswagen pollution-cheating scandal overshadowed an otherwise exuberant mood as the Detroit auto show opened Monday amid record US sales.

The Honda Civic and the Volvo XC90 the North American car and truck of the year to kick off the annual exhibition, as Car and Driver contributing editor Tony Swan declared: "There aren't any bad cars anymore."

More than 40 new vehicles will vie for the attention of more than 5000 journalists from around the world during official press previews at the North American International Auto Show Monday and Tuesday.

Record 2015 US sales

The mood in Detroit is upbeat, following a record 2015 for sales that has created an everybody-wins dynamic among automakers.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the show next week, a trip which would serve to remind how his administration helped rescue the industry from a devastating collapse during the economic crisis in 2009.

Obama said in a radio address on Saturday, "today, the American auto industry is back.

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"I believe that every American should be proud of what our most iconic industry has done."

But not everyone in Detroit was in a celebratory mood.

VW under pressure in US

German automaker Volkswagen continues to reel from an emissions-cheating scandal.

In his first official US visit since the scandal broke in September, newly-tapped chief executive Matthias Mueller apologized and insisted the German auto giant is "fully committed to making things right."

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The head of the German automaker said to the media: "We know that we have let down customers, authorities, regulators and the general public here in America.

"We are, I am, truly sorry for that and I would like to apologize once again for what went wrong at Volkswagen," he added, stressing that "our most important task in 2016 is to win back trust."

11-million cars affected worldwide

The Wolfsburg-based group admitted to installing software in around 11 million diesel cars of its VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda brands worldwide that helped them evade emissions standards.

The so-called defeat devices turn on pollution controls when the cars are undergoing testing, and off when they are back on the road, allowing them to spew out harmful levels of nitrogen oxide.

On Monday, the head of the German Association of the Automotive Industry said they will continue to promote diesel cars in the United States.

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Matthias Wissmann said:"Despite the resistance we are naturally experiencing here in the US, the German automotive industry will stand by its diesel strategy.

"We stand firmly behind diesel vehicles."

Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche took a not-so-subtle dig at his rival VW Sunday night.

He told reporters at a lavish party unveiling the new Mercedes E-Class luxury sedan that in contrast to "some German automakers", Santa Claus "left a lot of candy in our stockings" in 2015.

Zetsche said: "It's obvious that the last year was not very nice for everybody and for some time the entire industry was affected by that.

"But there's clear differentiation and we feel full confidence with our customer base and our stakeholders again."

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