2009 Detroit Auto Show: Best In Show Page 2

January 14, 2009

Best production car: 2010 Fisker Karma. The production-version Karma shown at Detroit has an attractive, plush new interior that better matches the curvy exterior shown at last year’s show—and incorporates trim and material firsts. The entire package shows a lot of new thinking and a strong understanding of who Fisker customers will be.

Top news story: Who will be car czar? It dominated the news this second day of the press preview, and I heard colleagues in the media split on whether it should be a detached financial expert or an industry veteran of some sort.

Top moment: GM's battery announcement. Could have been better received, but the Korean cell sourcing irked some.

2009 Chrysler 200C Concept

2009 Chrysler 200C Concept

Enlarge Photo

Rex Roy, Detroit Editor

Best Concept: Chrysler 200C EV. Chrysler didn't let the media know that it was planning a traditional show car for the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, so when the 200C EV rolled onto the platform, it caught everybody by surprise. While the exterior of the little 200 is handsome and the electric powertrain is politically correct (and politically expedient), the 200C EV gets my vote because of its instrument cluster. There are no traditional switches or levers. Everything is controlled by the same technology that makes your iPhone work. Chrysler worked with Nartron (a technology supplier from Reed City, Michigan) to create the gesture-based system. Nartron owns the patents behind much of the technology that makes the iPhone and the 200C EV's interface system work. Expect to see this technology on cars within the next decade because Narton recently signed a manufacturing deal with mega-supplier Sanyo to handle production.

Best production car: 2010 Ford Taurus. With a base price expected to be around $26,000, the 2010 Ford Taurus is my pick. My reasoning is not so much based on style (it's not ugly), size (it's big inside), and practicality (the trunk is enormous … something buyers replacing SUVs will appreciate). The 2010 Taurus shows that Ford has its act together, and right now for a Detroit manufacturer, that's significant.

Top news story: That the show happened at all. Things aren't great in Detroit these days. Several non-Detroit-based manufacturers pulled out of the show last fall … not good pre-show news. More current news is that two of Detroit's three manufacturers are on government life support. Beyond this, the city's former mayor is in jail. The replacement mayor is dealing with a huge budget deficit and untold crises. And to top it all off, it snowed heavily the Friday before press days, a meteorological occurrence that in past years overwhelmed the city's limited snow clearing capabilities. In spite of all this, Detroit still put on a good auto show in 2009.  Atta boy, Detroit.

Top moment: On Monday, right after GM announced their battery manufacturing program and the addition of 300 battery engineers at a new 31,000 square-foot facility, BYD from China held their press conference. Along with showing three vehicles, one already on sale in China, the company revealed their all-new ferrous battery technology. According to BYD, it offers significant performance and cost benefits compared to lithium ion cells (like those GM is committed to). With batteries holding the potential to become the internal combustion engines of the future, the significance of BYD being first a battery company gave us cause for pause. According to BYD officials, the company already has 11,000 people working on battery technology and production. The 300 engineers GM is adding to their small battery team seems like a drop in the bucket with this as a frame of reference.

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