2009 Chrysler 200C ConceptEnlarge Photo
The 2009 Detroit auto show opens to the public on Saturday--but the media has slipped out of Cobo Hall after one of the shortest press days in recent memory.
Despite the gloom surrounding the industry, there were glimmers of hope. Each of the Big Three showed an unexpected concept car--and each was compelling in its own way. Toyota and Lexus recast the Prius and a new HS 250h hybrid as their halo cars, and even the Chinese auto companies and the EV makers Tesla and Fisker showed that you don't have to be big and experienced to find new ways to lose money selling cars in the U.S.
While you're cruising around our 2009 Detroit auto show page--where you'll find all the links to stories from this year's gala event, and tons of photos, too--keep in mind these scene-stealing vehicles that our editors have chosen as the best in show from Detroit 2009:
2009 Detroit auto showEnlarge Photo
Best Concept: Chrysler 200C. Since the dark days of the Nardelli era ushered in, we in the media haven't had the easiest time finding the light at the end of Chrysler's tunnel. If--and it's a huge if--they can find a sugar daddy willing to invest in its future and donate a mid-size, front-drive platform to build this concept, they could easily charge back into the game of profitability and electrification. While the U.S. Government screws around with building bridges to nowhere, this sleek, techno-savvy concept could be Chrysler's bridge to sustainability. Points also for realizing that a long-term future doesn't involve all cars chopped, channeled, and turned retro.
Best Production Car: 2010 Lexus HS 250h. It's a logical step for Toyota to add the Prius luster to the Lexus brand--and with a four-door body, better power and a finer interior, the new HS 250h gives Prius owners a luxe step up while simultaneously sending the Lexus ES 350 off into the sunset formerly occupied by the Buick Century. Right car, right time.
Top news story: During the show press days, the reality of the financial crisis in Detroit was never far from reach. Chrysler and GM going back to Congress during show days and asking for another $17 billion or so just to stay in business was pretty sobering. And yet, Ford reported that its sales in January were tracking higher than it expected. For the foreseeable future, this is the only story Detroit needs to worry about.
Top moment: Returning to the Detroit auto show a year after change came to TheCarConnection.com--and reporting to you that we're growing like crazy, with traffic more than doubled from this time last year, and a slew of new Web sites about to usher in a new era at High Gear Media. Keep an eye on our new sites as they launch and grow--you'll find out about them here first. On the down side, realizing that I'll never be appointed the industry's "car czar" as long as I keep tellingother major media networks that "Congress must be on crack" for not compelling a pre-packaged Big Three bankruptcy.
Lincoln Concept C Reveal - DetroitEnlarge Photo
Best concept: Lincoln Concept C. This little concept was a real surprise, and such a refreshingly different take on a small car for the American market. The shape isn’t gimmicky or retro, though I it's hard to deny the French design aura; but I also see the wide lower body of a small roadster. Now the reality check: Every small car Lincoln and Mercury have had in decades has been basically ignored by dealerships (and customers). Could it fly as a Lincoln, and how would it be different this time? If I could call a runner-up, it would be the very attractive Chrysler 200C.