The automotive industry is back in a big way, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, Motor City's version of Fashion Week. The highly-anticipated annual showcase opened to the press Monday, and automakers have plenty to cheer about: United States sales are at a three-year high, and projections say they’ll keep growing. Forty new vehicles, both of wildly conceptual and totally attainable varieties, will debut admid plenty of glitz.
Aside from the blazing bright lights, two-story-tall TV screens, sexy models (the human kind), and flashy presentations, show-goers will notice a trend toward more fuel-efficient cars in response to record-high gas prices, with brand new added perks to lure consumers. Take, for example, Smart's For-Us concept prototype, a petite pickup that fuses a classic American truck aesthetic with zero fuel usage. While it comes with its own flatbed (perfect for hauling your electric bicycle when not in use, because — surprise! — it acts as a charger for that, too), the entire vehicle takes up only 11.6 cubic feet of space — meaning it could easily fit on the flatbed of a standard pickup, itself. Smart For-Us is equipped with a lithium-ion battery that brings its 55-kilowatt magneto-electric motor to 80 miles per hour. The mother-of-pearl white-and-brushed-aluminum interiors, accented with banana-yellow seat covers, feature a high-tech perk: a smartphone mounted above the dash and a rear-view video camera, since mirrors are so last millenium.
Smart, a member of Germany's Daimler AG family, has been struggling to gain popularity in the U.S., and this looks like an attempt to cater to the nation's infatuation with trucks. We're skeptical whether it will ever actually come into production, and the fact that it was ominously introduced at the show by comedian Jon Lovitz may keep it relegated to its current punchline status.
The NAIAS opens to the public January 14.