On Monday, I went to Detroit for the 2011 North American International Auto Show. The news from Detroit is good--good for car lovers, good for the environment, and good for the economy.
Whether you're interested in all things automobile or are a consumer considering a new-car purchase, I think you'll find plenty to cheer about at this year's show. Overnight, automakers unveiled more than two dozen new models, including electrics, sports cars, and big and small family sedans.
In Detroit, I met with representatives from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, BMW, and Volvo. And perhaps more important than the innovative designs I saw was the general mood of this year's show. Upbeat and optimistic, carmakers are sending a signal that the auto industry, which has persisted through a couple of difficult years, is once again firing on all cylinders.
I'm excited by the variety of electric vehicles on display. From the Chevy Volt--2011 North American Car of the Year--and the Nissan Leaf to the upcoming plug-in version of Toyota's Prius, the electrification of America's passenger fleet is under way.
Ford is even taking the typical plug-in one step further with its C-Max compact minivan, which will be available as a gas-electric hybrid or as an all-electric plug-in that promises to recharge in only three hours. That's about half the time of the current standard! It's pretty clear that auto makers are designing and producing fuel-efficient vehicles that consumers will like and that are safe.
And everywhere I went at the show, the buzzword was "jobs." Automakers are ramping up production, and that means they are hiring. GM and Chrysler each said they are looking to hire 1,000 engineers in Michigan this year. GM is also adding a shift at a plant in Orion, MI, and Chrysler plans to run add a shift at its Sterling Heights, MI, facility--a factory that had once been slated to close. Toyota is also hiring 2,000 for its plant in Tupelo, Mississippi.
On top of that, Volkswagen is adding 2,000 direct jobs at its new $1 billion Passat plant in Chattanooga. Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen of North America, says the new plant's activity will provide another 10,000 jobs for suppliers across the country.
As industry analyst Rebecca Lindland said, American-made may be the wave of the future: “To produce this vehicle in Tennessee is really significant. VW is starting to understand the subjective nature of the US marketplace. And how we define quality and reliability may be different than in other parts of the world.”
Well, there you have it. Good, safe cars people will want, green technology, more jobs for US workers, and a recognition that American-made means better quality and reliability. It's no wonder automakers are optimistic and upbeat. I am too.