DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- It's hard to imagine that the auto industry can replicate the drama of its remarkable 2010 turnaround, but the start of the Detroit Auto Show next week, which TheStreet will cover live, will sketch out the industry's path for the current year. With rising fuel prices as a backdrop, it is not surprising that green cars will be the focus of the show's press preview next week. However, Keith Crain, editor of Automotive News, reminds us that the press preview and the auto show itself are two separate, unequal events.
"What they show the press is not always what the public will be interested in," Crain said. At the Detroit press preview, "You will see a huge push on green, high-mileage, plug-ins and environmentally active vehicles," he said. "You will see hybrids, plug-ins, smaller high mileage engines, some diesel, and a lot of environmentally-activated power plants." When the public show opens on Saturday, "pickup trucks and SUVs will get center stage," Crain said. He added that among the U.S. automakers, Ford ( F) is in the best position. "Ford has a lot of high-mileage small cars," he said. "Ford is ready to swing either way," depending on whether gas prices trend sufficiently high enough that consumers are encouraged to make a move to small cars. "The one thing you have to do in this business is to stay really flexible, to build the Fiesta one week and F-150s the next." Read on for a look at four key vehicles that will be showcased at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.