Jan 13 - American auto companies are choosing brawn over brains at the 25th Detroit Auto Show with a Chevy Corvette and Silverado truck grabbing top honors as U.S. auto sales head into a five-year recovery. Conway G. Gittens reports.
American auto companies are showcasing brawn with only a hint of green at this year's Detroit Auto Show. General Motors leads the pack - snagging both Car and Truck of the year - the first time GM has ever driven away with both awards in the same year. The redesigned Chevrolet Corvette Stingray gets the top honor, cementing GM's turnaround from "Government Motors" bailout - to the talk of the town. The Corvette Z06 is also part of that buzz, not to mention the Chevy Silverado as Truck of the Year. GM President of North America Mark Reuss: MARK REUSS, PRESIDENT, GENERAL MOTORS NORTH AMERICA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's a reflection of the focus and the real fundamentals of excellence that are becoming apparent here at GM." The turnaround certainly puts the wind at the back of incoming CEO Mary Barra as the industry's first female leader. But the competition is coming on strong and heavy - as in heavy-duty trucks. The F150 is Ford's top offering. Cool to the touch, it's made largely out of aluminum, without compromising on the steel appeal. But critics say not so fast on the use of so much aluminum. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford defends the material: SOUNDBITE: BILL FORD, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, FORD MOTOR COMPANY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We wouldn't do something this bold if we didn't have an extremely high confidence level that it was going to work. The fact that it has less dentability than steel and it's on a very heavy steel frame. It's just a lot of the body pedals are aluminum -and the performance - yes we took 700 pounds out, it will get better fuel economy, but also accelerate faster, tow more, stop faster." Ford is looking to keep the F150 the industry's best selling truck. It's all part of the most aggressive rollout in Ford's history, including a 50th anniversary Mustang. Chrysler has decidedly kept a low profile since the financial crisis...focusing on a takeover by Italy's Fiat. Its marquee offering this time around is the midsized Chrysler 200, not as sexy as what Ford or GM is putting out there. But it's continuing to focus on the small car market with an upgrade to the Dodge Dart. And of course an upgraded Dodge Ram. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne says there's still a place in the world for Chrysler. The industry however is more than just fine, it's thriving - moving into its fifth year of recovery, with unit sales surging 50 percent since the recession. Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports: SOUNDBITE: JAKE FISHER, DIRECTOR OF AUTO TESTING, CONSUMER REPORTS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The American auto makers - they are back. We have a real market now. We are talking 16 million units, not 11 million like a few years ago and the U.S. automakers are putting out cars that are exciting again." But some of that excitement has yet to be realized. While Tesla is grabbing headlines for its all electric luxury model, industry watchers are waiting to see how Tesla does when it launches a more affordable mass-market vehicle.