Detroit Auto Show: 5 Automakers to Watch

The North American International Auto Show will go light on the glitz and gas guzzlers this year, as exhibitors (two of them fresh from a bailout) seek to demonstrate efficiency, innovation and frugality. Even SUVs — most notably the 30-mpg-highway 2010 Chevy Equinox — are sporting improved fuel economy. With at least seven manufacturers, including Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., opting out of corporate representation at the Detroit event, smaller startups and new green concepts from established automakers just might steal the show. We’ll be watching to see how these five electric and hybrid vehicle exhibitors perform in the spotlight:

BYD Auto: Chinese battery company BYD made its North American debut at the 2008 Detroit show with its H6 DM hybrid. Over the last year, BYD has entered the green auto race in earnest, thanks in part to a $230 million investment from Warren Buffett, the launch of a plug-in hybrid (the F3DM) earlier this month, and plans to roll out an all-electric car, the e6 (pictured below) in 2009.

Fisker Automotive: The Irvine, Calif.-based startup unveiled prototypes of its electric Karma at last year’s show, and plans to display the production version (revealed earlier this month and pictured below) in 2009. The company also plans to show off a hybrid concept convertible called the Karma S.

Honda: The production version of the 2009 Honda Insight Hybrid (pictured below) is slated to debut in Detroit, kicking off what the company hopes will be a year of fierce competition with the Toyota Prius. According to Edmunds, the Insight is expected to carry a $20,000 price tag, compared with $22,720 plus a $700 “destination charge” for the 2009 Prius.


Tesla Motors: The San Carlos, Calif.-based startup will have floor space in Detroit for the first time this year to display its Tesla Roadster (below). Don’t expect to see the long-awaited Model S sedan — it’s slated for an unveiling later in 2009.

Toyota Motor Corp.: Toyota is going gangbusters for green this year. It plans to debut one all-electric concept vehicle and two hybrid concepts — a sports car called the Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Concept, and a Lexus sedan called the HS250h that’s expected to give efficiency priority over the juiced-up engines seen in previous Lexus hybrids. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company will base the limited-range, $20,000 electric model on a subcompact that the company has in the works for a possible launch in the next few years. That’s not all. The company will also show the buzzy 2010 Prius (pictured below) and Camry Hybrid.



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