Has Motown got its mojo back? A walk round the pleasantly compact Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit makes you think that it has.
Ford, shorn of Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, has filled the space admirably. JLR is now over the other ‘European’ side of the hall with Volkswagen, BMW, MINI and Bentley as neighbours.
Next to Ford, General Motors, trimmed from eight to four brands, occupies the same space as it did before but in more serious, less ‘Hollywood goes to Motown’ way.
And struggling Chrysler, now 25 per cent owned by Fiat, is back with a bang with large but understated displays of its wares. Its chief, Olivier Francois was upbeat: “We were backed into a corner but the launch of the new Chrysler 300 marks our return. The industry has been through a bad time but Detroit is tough and it never gives up.”
Industry executives are all talking about being part of a “growth industry”.
Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, said: “It just shows that when we can invest, and bring out great products, consumers can respond to that. We can grow our business, we can provide jobs for American workers.”
Ford announced that it will add 7,000 jobs in the US over the next two years.
“We are a growing company in a growth industry right now, and that’s very, very encouraging, not only for us but for the country,” Fields said.
Dan Akerson, chairman of General Motors, was similarly upbeat when talking to reporters on the eve of the show. This is, he said, a growth industry.
That sentiment was echoed by Nissan president for the Americas Carlos Tavares who said the company would be back for 2012 after missing the show since 2009.
“We’re launching new product and our business is growing throughout the American region and globally,” he said, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the show.
Bentley brand director Adrian Hallmark said: “We had a reasonable year in 2010, on a par with 2009 – but 2011 will be better.”
Detroit, as usual at this time of year, is cold. Around minus 10 degrees at times, but that did not discourage the hardy Swedes from Saab bizarrely having their stand outside, complete with marquee – aptly named the Sno Hus.”