OpEd - Cars For All
Henry Ford, who once envisioned everyone in America driving a Model T in basic black, would surely be astounded to see the array of motorized transportation on display for the next week in his old hometown.
From the Mini Cooper to the giant Hummer, the auto industry is desperately trying to find something for everyone to love -- a big change from the days of trying to build something that everyone could use and no one would hate. Intense competition for market share has driven motor vehicle makers to take risks, pursuing products that will lock up one slice of an increasingly segmented market. Industry stylists have gotten bolder, and advances in materials and engineering have enabled them to do so while improving safety and handling.
This year's North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall also reflects the industry's determination to find realistic alternatives to the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine as a power plant. The long and largely fruitless quest for the electric car has given way to the development of hybrid and fuel-cell technologies that appear much more practical. The next few years will see what amounts to large-scale testing of these products for performance and consumer response. But the results are already more encouraging for the industry and the environment than electric-powered cars ever were.
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