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Nissan a No-Show for Detroit, Chicago Auto Shows

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Wonder if Joe Serra, co-chair of Detroit's North American International Auto Show, is still feeling so upbeat about this year's show now that Nissan Motor Co. has decided it won't be bringing its lineup of cars, models, spokespeople, and hundreds of armor all bottles to Cobo Hall. Yup, that's right: Earlier this evening, Automotive News announced the sobering fact that Nissan North America--the highest-volume automaker to pull out of Detroit thus far--will not be participating in this year's show. That makes it the latest automaker to bail on Detroit, joining Rolls-Royce, Land Rover, Ferrari, Suzuki, Porsche, and Mitsubishi. They also say that Nissan will not have a presence at the Chicago Auto Show in '09.

Mr. Serra was not overly concerned at relatively small-potato Mitsubishi's decision to stage a no-show at this year's event, but when huge automakers like Nissan start aborting plans to have a presence at arguably the most important auto show in North America, you know that times are tough. It makes one think about the economy in Detroit, Michigan; not only are the Big Three facing record losses, but the industries built around automaking (auto shows, car dealerships, suppliers, probably even car PR types) are also treading water with increasing desperation. Tough times, indeed.

So, who's next to bail on Detroit? Surely the Big Three, come hell or high water, will have a strong presence on their home turf. From all reports, Ford stands poised for the quickest recovery and most promising near-term future, so we expect a bevy of fresh-faced models, 10-gallon displays over at the Truck of Texas F-150 stand, lots of 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid hype, and a healthy smattering of 2011 Fiesta frenzy--not to mention the newest Shelby-fied version of the 2010 Ford Mustang and the 2010 Lincoln MKT. Heck, maybe even Nelly will show up with his pimped Ford Flex.

But what is GM to do with its bright orange Hummer H3T lingering from SEMA? Leave that one in the barn and put a few extra blazing 2010 Camaros on display, that's what, including the awesome quartet of Camaro concepts displayed at SEMA. Plus the ferocious, Viper-beating new ZR1. Add anything from Cadillac's impressive stable (OK, maybe not the Escalade unless it's the hybrid) like the 2010 Cadillac CTS Coupe. Leave the Pontiac G3 at home in the medicine cabinet, to be taken for CAFE purposes only. And add another healthy round of publicity for the highly anticipated 2011 Chevrolet Volt E-REV electric. And toss in the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, too.

And of Chrysler? Well, they can roll out their trio of electric vehicles announced, oh, a day or so after Chevy announced the Volt. But more exciting will be the Dodge Challenger in its six-, eight-, and maybe even ten-cylindervarieties, and the impressive new Dodge Ram with its segment-leading coil-sprung rear suspension. We all know--yawn--about the minivans, and we all wish we didn't know about the Sebring/Avenger and Compass/Patriot/Caliber triplets.

Heck, maybe auto-show downsizing ain't such a bad thing. Leave the snoozers and losers at home, and just bring out the models that will save your hide and win prizes. It could be like a talent show--judges, juries, costume, hair, and makeup. Something along the lines of, you know, Dancing with the Cars. "Contestant #1: Gained 300 pounds since your last generation? No fancy footwork for you--take a hike." "Contestant #2: More performance at the cost of greater consumption? Wipe that sweat off your brow on the way out." "Contestant #3: Did you think we wouldn't notice those harsh lines and that aging bone structure under all the layers of makeup and glitter? You're history."--Colin Mathews

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