Virtually every major automaker with displays on this vast convention floor is showing off new hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicles, responding to consumer demand for higher gas mileage cars that are also environmentally sensitive.
MORE INFO: Jon Decker reports from Detroit
If the 2009 North American International Auto Show had an official color, it most certainly would be green.
Virtually every major automaker with displays on this vast convention floor is showing off new hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicles...responding to consumer demand for higher gas mileage cars that are also environmentally sensitive.
Toyota - which unveiled a new Prius hybrid that gets 50 miles to the gallon -- also introduced the tiny FT-EV - an electric plug-in concept car.
Bill Reinert heads Toyota's Advanced Technology Group.
SOUNDBITE: Bill Reinert, Manager, Advanced Technology Group - Toyota Motor Company, saying (English):
"We're launching these vehicles really in the face of negative market conditions. We're launching these vehicles in the face of really low gasoline prices. And we're launching these vehicles into a public that says they want them but doesn't really understand the trade-offs and the pluses and minuses."
General Motors is hoping that the Chevy Volt, its $40,000 electric car which will hit showrooms this year, is a hit with consumers.
Mark LaNeve is General Motors' Vice President for sales and marketing.
SOUNDBITE: Mark LaNeve, General Motors' Vice President for sales and marketing, saying (English):
"We're starting to benefit now with products like the Escalade Hybrid. It's been a hot vehicle. And products like the Volt that we're bringing to the market. And these products are all an important part of the whole puzzle we're putting together of vehicles people really want but also solving the fuel economy and eventually energy independence equation."
While Ford emphasized its new hybrid models -- including the Ford Fusion, Chrysler unveiled several electric-powered concept cars including an electric Jeep and the Dodge Circuit EV, a sporty car also powered solely by electricity.
Honda, meanwhile, introduced a new hybrid model called the Insight and a hydrogen fuel-cell powered sedan that leases for $600 a month.
James Bell is the editor of Intellichoice.com
SOUNDBITE: James Bell, editor of Intellichoice.com, saying (English):
"It will be an early adopter thing..maybe the way hybrids were. As hybrids become more mainstream, then the early adopters will start to look to full electric. So it's gonna take some time, but I think the beautiful thing about this particular show is that we're seeing General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- all have them ready. I think at the very least they've all committed by the year 2012 to have them on the road."
While macho cars like the Hummer barely drew a crowd at this year's auto show, a green Smart car powered by electricity and a Mercedes electric concept car got plenty of media attention.
(STAND-UP) Of course, alternative fuel vehicles don't have to be just about the environment. They can also be about style..as this $100,000 electric-powered Tesla clearly demonstrates.
But for all the talk about hybrids and electric cars, most analysts expect these type of vehicles to remain a very small part of worldwide auto sales over the next few years.
At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I'm Jon Decker for Reuters Television.
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