DETROIT - I'll be honest. Covering the auto show these past four years has been less than exhilarating.
There was a general sense of depression, then panic, followed by the disgrace of bankruptcy, an uncertain recovery and a sense things will never be the same again. But this year, Cobo feels like the good ole' days.
The industry has its mojo back.
Even though we are still technically in a sales recession, the Detroit Three are still making money. Because while the swagger is back, the arrogant, business as usual attitude is gone. They are applying lessons learned and are reaping the benefits.
Visitors will feel the optimism when they see the return of concept cars to NAIAS. Like robins returning in the spring, these blue-sky attempts at testing the future are back with a high-flying vengeance.
Automakers abandoned these flights of fancy for years.
What's the point of exploring the future, when you aren't sure if you even have one?
From Chevy's two youth-oriented concepts the Code 130 R and True 140 S, we get a window into what the new Cruze may look like. Chrysler surprised us all by rolling out an unannounced mini-van concept called the 700c. BMW has the big brother of Tom Cruise's most recent Mission: Impossible car, the i8 concept. You can't swing a keychain without hitting some futuristic vehicle.
Toyota's display is a blinding virtual Times Square of LED banners. Ford introduced their new Fusion on center ice at Joe Louis Arena.
Are they spending millions?
Critics will declare it as evidence they are back to their old ways. Insiders say it is the kind of investment we need to re-energize the marketplace. It also gives the automakers a 24-carat chance to test new styles, features and technologies with the public. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, they will have instant and low-cost market feedback.
So the buzz is back. It feels good. And we can appreciate the return of the good ole' days, because we had never before seen times that bad.
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