I consider myself to be a well-traveled guy, having been to all sorts of places around the globe. But I've never been to Detroit, until now. Yesterday, it was wheels up (and then down) for me as I journeyed to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where auto companies from around the world come to roll out their latest innovations and ideas.
This year's press preview features press events by more than 30 brands with an expected 30-40 worldwide debuts. As many as 4,500 journalists (including yours truly) are expected to attend presentations by companies including Ford (NYSE: F ) , General Motors (NYSE: GM ) , Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA ) , BMW, and Toyota (NYSE: TM ) .
There's going to be a lot going on, but I want to get my eyes and ears (and possibly hands and feet) on as much as possible. That said, here are some of the things I am going to be looking for:
Arguably the strongest of Detroit's Big Three, Ford continues to focus on turning out vehicles geared toward style and efficiency. One of its big displays looks to be the 2012 Focus Electric. Made in the U.S. and fully electric, this Focus model boasts a charging time approximately half that of Nissan's all-electric Leaf, available to consumers by late 2011.
The Chevy Volt has made waves since the concept was first released, and this year's show sets the stage for a possible new model of the Volt to go on display. Whether this vehicle (rumored to be called the Chevy Amp) is a concept car or a model geared toward actual production remains to be seen. But it's supposed to be a crossover model that could offer a bit more room to go with the efficiency of an electric vehicle.
A family affair
Toyota has flat-out owned the alternative energy vehicle market with its Prius hybrid. This year, it appears it is going to try to leverage the success of the Prius brand into a family of vehicles. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid and the larger Prius-V are just a couple of examples of how the company is expanding the brand. I'm looking forward to seeing what else it's working on.
These are a can't-miss
And of course the trip wouldn't be complete without seeing what Tesla and BYD have to offer. This will be Tesla's first trip to the show as a public company and word is that it's going to preview the "alpha build" (rough draft) of its production Model S sedan. BYD will be making its fourth trip to the NAIAS showcasing a number of different electric vehicles including the 2012 e6 Premier (a crossover with claiming a range of more than 150 miles) as well as an electric bus (I gotta see this) that was introduced to China back in October 2010. In addition to its vehicles, BYD will be showcasing a variety of energy solutions including solar panels and other battery technology.
Stay tuned for more NAIAS coverage this week, and drop a note in the comments section below if you'd like any specific topics covered.