Detroit shows signs of life at auto show

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, talks to United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger at the North American International Auto Show Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

January 11, 2010 8:48:03 PM PST
After a tough year of declining sales and federal rescue loans, U.S. automakers are starting to show signs of life.

There is a new kind of tire-kicking at car lots. American cars are boasting they are better than the foreign competition.

After the government loaned General Motors $50 billion, Washington is keeping a close eye on its investment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., went to the North American International Auto Show.

"Now we're here today to see the result of some of the investments we have made directly or indirectly into battery technology and the science to take us to this place," she said.

GM's chairman and CEO is hoping to turn a profit this year. The government owns 61 percent of GM.

"I think the government's investment is well placed and I think they'll make a lot of money," Ed Whitacre said.

Even consumers sense Detroit has shifted out of reverse.

"With the government being behind them as well as they are, I think it has given them a lot more to work with and they've gone back to the drawing board making better cars," San Jose resident Diana Smith said.

Auto industry expert Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says automakers needed more effective leadership, a thought shared by the transportation secretary.

"Obviously the new leadership has really motivated people to really design and produce the kind of product that I think people are really going to like," Ray LaHood said.

Adding to Detroit's new image, two Ford vehicles were named the car and truck of the year, even though both are made overseas.

Shaiken adds a note of caution not to expect Detroit automakers to spring back to their glory days. Projected sales of cars and trucks for 2010 will be just a smidgen above the just over 10 million cars sold last year.