Time will only tell what car collectors of the future will be collecting, but the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is a good place to start looking.
The exhibition got under way this week and will top off with a public show Jan. 16-24. There are more than 700 vehicles on display, representing the most innovative designs in the world.
Some early headlines coming out of the show was an announcement that Ford Motor Company had scored a historic doubleheader, capturing both the North American Car of the Year and North American Truck of the Year awards for the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2010 Ford Transit Connect, respectively. It is only the third time in 17 years that one manufacturer has won both titles.
The North American Car and Truck of the Year awards recognize vehicles based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. A jury of 49 automotive journalists in the United States and Canada vote for the vehicles, which must be "all-new" or "substantially changed" from the previous model to qualify for the award.
The Fusion Hybrid edged out finalists including the Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Golf/GTI to win the North American Car of the Year award. It is the fourth hybrid vehicle in 17 years to win recognition as North American Car (or Truck) of the Year. It also is the second hybrid win for Ford - the most hybrid wins for any automaker. The Ford Escape Hybrid was named North American Truck of the Year in 2005.
It was Audi that was awarded the prestigious EyesOn Design Award for its new 2011 A8 Flagship Sedan, winning in the best production vehicle design debut category. The Detroit show was its initial appearance at a world auto show, following its global unveiling in Miami last November. The 2011 A8 flagship sedan will be available at Audi U.S. dealers in fall 2010.
Several automakers unveiled buzz-worthy vehicles. Half Jeep, half Cooper, the MINI showed off its wacky Beachcomber concept, designed without doors or a conventional roof.
The Blue-Will marked the unveiling of Hyundai's first hybrid and GMC introduced the Granite.
Called an Urban Utility Vehicle, the Granite was designed with French-style doors, next generation organic LED technology inside and out, flip and fold seats and multiple storage areas.
Mercedes, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen also showed off their design and engineering chops at the show.
What are some of the features to look forward to on cars of tomorrow? Improved safety, Smartphone and electronics integration said automotive leaders at the Automotive News World Congress panel earlier in the week. The desire to remain connected, ability to trust companies and how the perception of risks affects the value of real-time remote diagnostics were among some of the trends discussed.
Paul Haelterman, vice president of global research firm CSM Worldwide, predicted that the industry will grow with three more manufacturers offering the services. By 2015, 45 percent of all vehicles will offer connected services in North America. In fact, it will become standard on most luxury vehicles, he believes.
The panel, held at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, featured Haelterman, Scott Miller, CEO of the Detroit office of global research firm Synovate, and Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, America's largest automotive retailer.
The discussion presented the ramifications of entire model lines being "connected" via wireless networks to off-board servers and content and personalized Web interfaces with vehicle owners.
For up-to-date news on the show go to the official Web site: www.naias.com
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