NAIAS

As the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit gets into the full swing of things I am still recuperating from the whirlwind adventure known as media days.

NAIAS played host to more than 5,000 media representatives from all over the globe during the first two days of the annual event in Motown. Some 35 press conferences and many unofficial or private events highlighted the 48-hour blitz on D-Town.

“The buzz is back,” proclaimed Bill Perkins, chairman, NAIAS 2012. “Press Preview exceeded our expectations with more than 93 percent of the new vehicles introduced being worldwide unveilings.”

Many of the vehicles making their debuts in Detroit had already been announced by the individual automakers but some were pleasant added surprises specifically for this historic show.

Most of the press conferences were fairly straightforward with a few turning into full “Hollywood-style” productions.

First up on Day One was the announcement of North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) handed out by a jury of media members. The Hyundai Elantra took top honors as Car of the Year while the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque was named Truck of the Year.

The Evoque model in the winner’s circle was the only Land Rover presence at this year’s show as the luxury division of Tata Motors of India chose to decline its invitation. There was a Tata in attendance as part of a future of motoring display outside the main show hall however. The Tata eMO EV shared booth space with a Renault and a Mitsubishi, both electrics.

Ford used the Joe Louis Arena to debut the completely made over 2013 Fusion midsize sedan in a theater-in-the-round type performance complete with fog machines and lasers.

Mercedes-Benz had live music as well as comedian Jon Lovitz as they introduced a couple of new hybrid E-Class sedans, the smart-for-us mini-truckster concept and the new SL roadster.

While not making any global debuts at this show, BMW brought in three US Olympians as they introduced America to the new 3 Series and two ActiveHybrid sedans.

Chevrolet surprised the show crowd with a couple of design concept models set to entice the millennial drivers. The Code 130R and Tru 140S concepts showed serious possibilities for the future of the bowtie brand.

Dodge appeared to be pinning a big part of its future on the new Dart compact sedan that will arrive as a 2013 model, set to replace the Avenger and Caliber models. The new car showcases the global partnership of the US brand and its sister company Alfa Romeo.

Many other vehicles were shown in Detroit, too many to list in this space. Audi, Acura, Bentley, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Falcon, Honda, Hyundai, Lexus, Lincoln, Maserati, MINI, Nissan, Porsche, Scion, Shelby, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo all have new production or concept vehicles at NAIAS. Even Bob Lutz was there with a new extended-range EV pickup (think Dr. Frankenstein putting the Chevy Volt brain into a Silverado body).

The public show runs through Jan. 22 and more information can be found throughout the interwebs. The Acura NSX concept seemed to be the hit of press preview days while my favorite was either the Fiat 500 Abarth with matching leather wearing girl or the champagne served in the Bentley booth.

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