Green confidence at the North American International Auto Show

Jan 15, 2013

With the Detroit International Auto Show only just beginning, GM and Chrysler are already receiving good news.

This year's North American Car of the Year award went to the Cadillac ATS, while Truck of the Year was awarded to the Dodge Ram 1500.

According to Bernard Swiecki with the Center for Automotive Research, these awards are more significant in their effects on confidence, rather than their impact on sales.

"Interestingly, both of these vehicles are built in Michigan, so there's a very real local connection there as well. This is kind of an endorsement that both of these critical vehicles were done right by the engineering teams. "

Swiecki mentions that confidence is shown not only in the vehicles, but in the atmosphere of this year's Detroit Auto Show, and is a clear departure from the austerity of the post-bailout shows of the past.

"In the 2009 and 2010 shows, there was almost an atmosphere of allaying the fears that 'We're not going to be here next year', and that's really not the case anymore, and it hasn't been for the last two or three years. Now it's more about a confident approach, showing future products with every certainty that 1) the companies are viable and 2) the products themselves are world-class," he said.

These American vehicles are world-class, and green, according to Swiecki, who claims that green-technology continues to be a pronounced trend in new American vehicles, such as Cadillac's luxurious take on the Chevy Volt. Green technology is even moving across vehicle platforms this year to trucks with Ford's Atlas Pickup concept, which will eventually become the next generation Ford F-150.

"The green-ness is universal, and then also this new renewed confidence on the Detroit Three side are overarching themes we are seeing strongly this year."

With the austerity of the past a memory, the confident Detroit Three are creating vehicles targeted to a specific consumer.

"During the leaner days of a few years ago, there was a bigger focus on more fuel efficient and less expensive cars. Now we're very much back to the broad portfolio approach, so we're basically shipping and selling to a consumer that's more confident, and has a slightly bigger purse...yes we have small cars, but the stars this year are more expensive vehicles," Swiecki said.

While domestic growth and confidence are high, American automakers continue to keep an eye on Europe and other foreign buyers. 

If going to the auto show, Swiecki suggests seeing the Lincoln MKC, a concept vehicle, which he says some may overlook.

"It's only a concept right now, but it's supposed to be very close in terms to what the actual production will look like. Based on the Ford Escape, it's a luxury cross-over, and when that vehicle actually hits production, and we do expect it to see production in about two years, it will really be the nice bell-weather, come-back car that Lincoln needs. It may end up being one of the more significant vehicles on the Auto Show floor this year."

- Austin Davis, Michigan Radio Newsroom