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Texans Love Trucks: Proof Found at Houston Auto Show

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author photo by Autotrader January 2011

In a city that dwarfs (at least in square acreage) any of Texas' other large municipalities, Houston's growth has been intertwined with that of the automobile and, not incidentally, the oil that propels it. And in its annual celebration of the car, Houston's auto show – while abbreviated to just five days – works to build on over a century of motorized momentum in this South Texas hub.

These, of course, are interesting times for both the carmakers and consumers. Volume sales can traditionally be found at the lower end of the economic spectrum, while operating profits are reaped at either the higher end of the automotive food chain or the higher end of the new car option sheet. This year's Houston Auto Show offered plenty of options, while paying homage to the traditional truck and more than a passing nod to encroaching (even in Houston) environmentalism.

At the show's home in Houston's Reliant Center, few things spoke better to that dichotomy than the Chrysler display. There, the Texas Auto Writers trophy for Truck of Texas, won by the (Dodge) Ram and which – at one point – might have been the highest structure in Houston, was positioned within spittin' distance of the parent company's new-for-the-U.S. Fiat 500. Chrysler's Dodge division touted the all-new Durango and its improved efficiency, while a walk-around by a company executive of the 2011 Chrysler 300 highlighted its all-new features.

In a not dissimilar fashion, Ford's display was all over the map. The well-received Fiesta and Fusion represent a new look (and profitability) for Ford's auto division, while the recently announced C-Max and Focus are intended to sustain same. And for those that love their trucks, Ford's EcoBoost V6 in the new F-Series provides V8-type power with V6-like efficiency.

Buick-GMC was similarly diverse. Front and center on the Buick stage sat the new Verano, which stands a better-than-even chance of being the new class of the compact class. Although pricing for the Verano hasn't been announced, Buick execs described it as being roughly equidistant between Volkswagen's new Jetta and an Audi A3. Of course, if you compare the bottom of the Jetta range and the top of the A3's structure, you could drive a Park Avenue through the resulting gap.

GMC, we're told, is doing just fine, with the Terrain's assembly plant having a tough time keeping up with demand for the compact crossover. Sales of the Sierra are on the uptick, helped in no small way by the new HD and abundance of Denali trim packages. Houstonians like their trucks, and love their fully-optioned trucks.

If the Energizer Bunny had an onboard generator, it would be more than a little like Chevrolet's PR machine and the Chevrolet Volt; the message keeps going and going and going…Of course, with the recent acclaim – the Volt was named Car of the Year by virtually every organization with access to a trophy shop – it's hard to argue with their strategy.

Beyond Volt is a compelling redo of the Aveo, dubbed Sonic. And as the Sonic moves up in size (and into showrooms later this year) from its way humble, Korean-sourced origins, a new Spark – now waiting in the wings – will occupy that subcompact territory abandoned by the Aveo/Sonic.

Finally, despite its truck plant in nearby San Antonio, Toyota chose to hype the plug-in Prius. Current plans call for a formal introduction for the 2012 model year, but now's the time to talk the talk. After all, Nissan was at the show with its all-new Leaf and first retail delivery in Texas. The happy new owners were replacing a Toyota Matrix.

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.
Texans Love Trucks: Proof Found at Houston Auto Show - Autotrader