Car News:  2012 Detroit Auto Show

2012 Detroit Auto Show Preview

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author photo by Colin Ryan January 2012

Michigan in January doesn't make for ideal surfing conditions, but the auto industry is riding the crest of a wave right now. Last year saw some healthy sales figures for almost everyone from Kia to Bentley (notable exceptions being Honda and Toyota), with 12.8 million vehicles sold - the best since 2008. Industry pundits are predicting an even better 2012.

So the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), otherwise known as the Detroit show, will be exhibiting something not seen for a while: a tentative confidence, albeit with some fading-yet-still-visible bruises. The competition is also tougher than ever as technology and engineering expertise meld to create some great new cars, many of which will be making their world debuts in Motown.

Home grown

Ford has grabbed the coveted position as best-selling domestic brand in the United States. The 2013 Ford Fusion could help keep it there. The next generation of the Blue Oval's best-selling mid-size sedan is to offer many features normally found in more upscale marques. Ford says the 2013 Fusion will be the first mainstream model in North America to have lane departure control and driver attention monitoring.

There's a similar theme to the 2013 Dodge Dart, an all-new compact sedan taking its first bow here. Leather upholstery, an 8.4-inch touchscreen and rear cross-path detection will be available.

Over at the Cadillac stand, things are expectedly high-end and packed with techno-goodies. But the new model being unveiled is the 2013 ATS, set to tempt buyers away from premium sedans like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class when it goes on sale later in the year - something Cadillac has never had before.

Keep an eye out for a new Buick model too, the 2013 Encore compact crossover.

European accents

Speaking of Mercedes-Benz, this is going to be a busy time for the company. A new generation of the iconic (yes, that's a cliche, but it really is apt here) SL roadster and a hybrid version of the E-Class sedan, the E400, are both launching in Detroit, showing the significance of the North American market to German luxury brands.

A three-pointed star adorned the first-ever "four-door coupe" - the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Now there's going to be one with a blue-and-white propeller badge when the wraps fall from the 2013 BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe. We've always known (and occasionally loved) the 6 Series as a two-door, but this model is a four-door, with a slightly stretched body to accommodate rear passengers. It will be offered in six- or eight-cylinder versions.

Two more open-top cars are also on show: the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet and the two-seater 2012 Mini Roadster. Both will be hitting the showrooms this spring. And Volvo is displaying a plug-in hybrid concept version of its excellent XC60 crossover SUV.

Asian studies

Last year's earthquake and tsunami hit Japan hard. The only car company to make a strong recovery so far has been Nissan. It will be using to Detroit to preview the 2013 Pathfinder, the next generation of its large SUV.

Lexus has been steadily moving away from its rather conservative image, as a new sports coupe concept - the LF-LC hybrid - reflects. Rumor has it that something along these lines will eventually replace the old SC model. There should be more info during the show.

Toyota is also introducing a plug-in hybrid concept, the NS4. That's about all anyone knows thus far, but we'll deliver the facts as soon as we get them. A production version of the small Prius C will also be on the stand.

Acura has some interesting stuff going on. Seriously. A whole new model goes on display at Detroit, the ILX, based on the Honda Civic and offering a hybrid drivetrain. Also, the re-designed 2013 RDX compact crossover comes to Motown, while parent company Honda is bringing an Accord Coupe concept.

Hyundai is introducing a revised-for-2013 Genesis Coupe; Kia is said to be showing a rival to the new Scion/Subaru rear-drive coupe.

Highly prized

As well as the EyesOn Design awards (the 2012 Audi A6 was a winner last year) and the Michelin Challenge, the Detroit bash hosts the North American car and truck of the year event. Finalists for the 2012 car category are the Ford Focus, VW Passat and Hyundai Elantra. In the truck category, it's between the Range Rover Evoque, BMW X3 and Honda CR-V. Winners will be announced on January 9.

The 2012 NAIAS is at the Cobo Center and open to the public from January 14 to 22. AutoTrader.com will be bringing news and pictures from the press days: January 9 and 10.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Detroit Auto Show Preview - Autotrader