Future Shock vs. Same Old Detroit Auto Show

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Published: 16-Jan-2007

IN January, the Motor City is usually more snow globe than crystal ball. But that never keeps thousands of auto executives, journalists, analysts and dealers from an annual rite: consulting the North American International Auto Show for the latest ideas on wheels — and trying to divine the industry’s future.

The 2007 show, which opened to the public yesterday at Cobo Center after a week of previews for the media and dealers, falls at the beginning of what may be a historic year, given that Toyota seems likely to overtake General Motors as the leader in global sales. It will also be a year in which Detroit’s struggling automakers will shut factories and lay off tens of thousands of employees.

As ever, there is a tempting yet often misadvised tendency to use Detroit’s show as a referendum on the industry, or to handicap the race among manufacturers. But while auto shows can be surprisingly unreliable guides to trends, each creates some striking snapshots and parallels.

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