Detroit motor show goes electric

The event, which is set to premiere 60 new models, remains the most important motor show in the US, in spite of the crisis that has rocked the industry.

Electric cars are to take centre stage, as Detroit tries to reinvent itself as a base for new automotive technologies. Small petrol-powered cars are also due to be popular, a shift from previous years when large cars dominated.

Small and electric

The change in emphasis towards more fuel efficient and electric cars comes as US drivers are becoming increasingly concerned with the cost of petrol.

Regulatory requirements are also being tightened amidst an increasing focus on the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars in order to curb global warming.

Chrysler, which is now controlled by Fiat, is pinning its hopes on rebadged versions of the Italian carmaker’s cars, while GM will unveil its Chevrolet Spark city car.

Ford, meanwhile, is unveiling its new Focus, hot on the heels of its introduction of the smaller Fiesta at the Los Angeles motor show last month.

The hope is that Detroit’s automotive industry can be revived, thus helping to create jobs in Michigan, where unemployment reached 15.8% last year.

But Detroit’s incumbents will face tough competition from non-US carmakers.

European and Asian carmakers will place great emphasis on petrol-electric hybrids or electric vehicles at this year’s show.

Luxury venue

Beyond the ageing Cobo centre, an alternative show venue has popped up this year at the MGM Grand Detroit casino, where a string of European luxury car makers that have been staying away from Detroit in recent years are showing off their wares.

Supercars made by the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari will be on display, as will a stable of cars from UK carmakers Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin, all of them attracted back to the city by the ease and low cost of displaying at the casino rather than creating entire stands at the main show.