) -- As the 2012 Detroit Auto show approaches, the Detroit Three have plenty to show.
All three companies reported sales gains through the first eleven months of 2011, and all three are showing dramatic new products in key market segments at the auto show, which kicks off with a press preview on Jan. 9 and 10.
Meanwhile, key Japanese competitors have faltered over the past two years, reflecting a combination of management failures and natural disasters.
With most forecasts anticipating a third consecutive annual increase in U.S. auto sales in 2012, it seems safe to say that the late-in-the-decade restructuring of the U.S. auto industry yielded substantial gains for the industry's big three -- gains that could even help to re-elect an embattled president who chose to
Here is a look at five of the hottest new products that will be shown at Detroit in January. The show is open to the public Jan. 14 through Jan. 22.
, which under Alan Mulally has staged a spectacular corporate turnaround, is ready to buttress its assault on the critical mid-sized sedan segment by launching the next generation Fusion.
The 2013 Fusion "will be shown in Detroit for the first time," says Ford analyst Erich Merkle. "The Fusion has almost doubled its share in the mid-size sedan segment since 2007. It's now the third best-selling passenger car in America, behind the Camry and Altima. It's an amazing accomplishment, given that the vehicle has only been in existence for approximately six years." (The photo above shows the 2012 Fusion.)
In the first 11 months of 2011, Fusion sales rose 15% to 226,445, making it the country's sixth best-selling vehicle as well as the third best-selling car.
The 2013 version is expected to be completely overhauled and will offer new, dramatic styling as well as a wide array of fuel-efficiency options.
2013 Dodge Dart
said earlier this month that it will unveil the 2013 Dodge Dart compact sedan at the Detroit Auto Show.
"They resurrected the name from the 1960s," says Ed Loh, editor-in-chief of
"The car looks spectacular, and Dodge is offering a bunch of interesting four cylinder engines," including one called the Tigershark.
The Dodge Dart will be the first Chrysler based on Fiat architecture, and will be built at Chrysler's Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant.
2013 Cadillac ATS
, which has restructured in bankruptcy, will seek to challenge BMW's luxury segment dominance with the 2013 Cadillac ATS. The new Caddy is slated to make its world premier at the Detroit show. Production will begin next summer in Lansing, Mich.
"ATS is a crucial part of Cadillac's expansion," Mary Barra, GM senior vice president of global product development, recently told the Automotive Press Association. "ATS enters the biggest market segment in the global luxury car industry, both in terms of volume and importance."
Said Motor Trend's Loh, "It looks like they are going right for the jugular with BMW, trying to build a car that will out handle the current 3Series. It's a bold assertion by Cadillac, because BMW created the sports sedan segment and Cadillac has never been a player in this field. To even talk about taking on BMW, they have to go through
ATS "is a new car using a newly developed architecture, entering the most significant segment in the world luxury car market," said Cadillac's David Caldwell. "Of course it attempts to provide a new pathway into our lineup, and will make a major attempt to break into a club dominated by Europeans."
Lexus LF-LC Concept
Toyota says it will unveil the LF-LC 2+2 sport coupe in Detroit on Jan. 9 at 1:25 p.m. EST.
"Crafted from a clean sheet of paper at the request of Lexus headquarters in Japan, the LF-LC blends both high technology and organic shapes to connect the driver to the machine," said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager, in a prepared statement. "The clean lines of the vehicle emphasize motion, creating a distinctive look for this futuristic sport coupe."
Conceived as a design exercise to explore the future of Lexus design, the LF-LC was created at the company's Catty design studio in Newport Beach, Calif.
Honda Accord Concept?
This is just a guess.
"If Honda shows this thing, it will be huge news," says
editor Ed Loh. "They haven't released a preview, and so far we have nothing."
The Accord is the ninth best-selling vehicle in the U.S. During the first eleven months of 2011 it sold 217,958 units despite a 14% sales decline. It could definitely use refreshing.
"It's something we will stake out," Loh says. "This is a heart-of-the-market segment.
"Honda got a little cocky and rested on their laurels," he says. "The new Civic was just released: sales are soft and the critic's reception is terrible. Of course, sometimes consumers are not that interested (in what the critics think)." For the first 11 months, Civic was the 12th best-selling vehicle, despite a 13.5% sales decline to 200,690 units.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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