7 Top Cars at the Detroit Auto Show

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- To me, the most important vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show was the 2014 Silverado, except it wasn't because GM ( GM) chose to roll out the new version of this long-established pickup truck on Dec. 13.

So by consensus, the top car of the auto show was the 2014 Corvette Stingray. This seemed puzzling because Corvette sold just 14,132 Corvettes in 2012 and the customer profile leans heavily to aging baby boomers seeking to recapture their lost youth. During the year, Silverado sold 418,312 units and was the second best-selling U.S. vehicle.

Furthermore, 2013 seems to be the year of the pickup truck, with a recovery in housing construction expected to boost sales and new trucks either on the market or coming to market from Chrysler, Ford ( F) and GM.

We asked Chevrolet spokesman Michael Albano why GM rolled out Silverado a month before the auto show, and he responded: "The Corvette was the star of the show and we suspected it would be and didn't want to compete with ourselves.

"In addition, unveiling the Silverado at a standalone event allowed us to take the time and explain the technical details of the truck to media," Albano said. "It's a sophisticated machine and the capabilities require explanation."

Last week, in advance of the auto show, TheStreet reported on the outlook for the six hottest cars. This week we are making one change in that list, adding the Honda ( HMC) SUV concept.

Plus this week, we have pictures of all the vehicles; few photos were available in advance of the show.

Here is our list:

Chevrolet Corvette

The 2014 Corvette Stingray got lots of attention, just as GM had hoped. A Sunday night introduction, in advance of the show's Monday morning opening, probably helped.

Why was the Stingray considered so important? We found one answer in a Detroit Free Press article, where Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said, "I joined the company because of this car" and recalled that on his first date with his future wife he drove a 1969 Corvette that he "was redoing at the time." In other words, at an auto show that is aimed at the auto industry rather than the region where it is staged, GM focused on a car that is important to the industry.

During a brief interview, we asked Reuss whether the Corvette can move beyond its core consumer group of baby boomers, and he responded: "Anybody who's got money and is interested in buying it, we'll sell it to them.

"This car represents freedom," he added. "It is unapologetically American."

Ford Atlas Concept

The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling U.S. vehicle for the past 31 years, as we have heard a thousand times in the past week, so the introduction of the concept for the 2015 F-150 is, of course, a big deal.

It does seem that Ford did not want all the attention going to the Silverado and the new Ram 1500, selected as the 2012 truck of the year at the start of the auto show, and so it rolled out a the Atlas concept on Tuesday. But there is something else going on here too: Wednesday, Jan. 16, was the 65th anniversary of F-Series, which was introduced on Jan. 16, 1948.

Ford even dug up the original press release, which noted that "the streamlined 1948 models, completely new from the wheels up, represent the first post-war product of Ford."

Toyota Furia Concept

The Toyota ( TM) Furia is the concept for the Corolla, the fifth best-selling car in the U.S. in 2012, with sales of 290,147 units. It was unveiled Monday.

Ed Hellwig, automotive editor at Edmunds.com, said the Furia is "thought to be a lightly massaged version of what will be the Corolla," which is a very high volume car in the very important compact car segment, where the Civic, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra all compete for consumers who are focused on good gas mileage.

"The Corolla Furia Concept is an early indicator of where our compact car design may lead in the future," said Bill Fay, group vice president the Toyota Division, in a prepared statement. "It blends a heightened emphasis on dramatic design and modern elements of high technology to generate curb appeal that will surprise a lot of people."

Toyota said the theme for this car is "'iconic dynamism,' which uses pure and simple surface elements to create a confident, decisive and recognizable appearance appealing to more youthful consumers." By the way, a lot of people say it is worthless for a college student to major in art history, given a job market which is heavily slanted against an education in anything that does not seem practical and immensely lucrative from the get-go, but we say that somebody has to devise themes for concept cars.

Since introducing the Corolla in the U.S. since 1968, Toyota has sold more than 9 million of them, which is about 38% of all the passenger cars it has sold in the U.S.

VW CrossBlue Concept

At the Monday rollout for this concept, Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen of America, said Volkswagen is growing in the U.S. but "we are absent from the large and growing mid-sized SUV segment.

"Perhaps we can surprise somebody (and) deliver a stylish SUV that is fun to drive, in this class, one you might expect VW to take on," Browning said, noting that the segment is expected to grow by 22% in 2012 as "SUVs are replacing the classic minivan."

VW said the CrossBlue would flesh out its SUV lineup with a seven-seat midsize crossover that slots in above the Tiguan and below the premium Touareg. One advantage -- for the first time VW has an SUV with a name that does not sound like the name of a pet tiger. Also, CrossBlue features a plug-in hybrid powertrain with estimated fuel economy of 89 miles per gallon in the electric mode and 35 mpg as a hybrid.

Honda Urban SUV Concept

Honda rolled out its compact Urban SUV Concept on Monday, planning to launch it in Japan by the end of 2013 and in the U.S. in 2014.

"No one has had greater success with small cars than Honda, and this Urban SUV Concept will create new value in the growing small-SUV segment," said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales at American Honda, in a prepared statement.

Total Car Score CEO Karl Brauer said the Urban SUV could be the most important vehicle at the auto show. "In terms of sales and growth for a brand, that small Honda concept (all the high-volume variants will sit on it) is pretty important to that brand," he said. By the way, that quote is from the first interview we ever conducted by text messaging.

Eric Lyman, vice president of editorial for ALG, a provider of automotive analysis, said the Urban SUV cannot arrive soon enough.

"With gas prices expected to rise over the long term and the subcompact utility segment in its infancy Honda cannot bring their entry into the segment soon enough," Lyman said, in a prepared statement. "With strong brand value and perception of fuel economy, Honda can capitalize on a segment currently populated with polarizing niche products."

Cadillac ELR

Cadillac rolled out the ELR, basically a luxury Volt, on Tuesday, saying "the sleek luxury coupe features the first application of extended range electric vehicle technology by a full-line luxury automotive brand."

"Cadillac ELR is General Motors' second vehicle using plug-in technology and its first luxury model with the powertrain," said TrueCar.com analyst Jesse Toprak, in a prepared statement. "The success of this vehicle will help GM to lower its production costs and introduce more plug-in hybrid models within its lineup of vehicles."

Brandy Schaffels, a TrueCar.com. editor, added: "This elegant sister to the Volt promises all the luxury and prestige one expects from the Cadillac brand."

Lexus IS Sedan

Lexus rolled out the IS on Tuesday and said it will go on sale in June. Design is key.

"One of the guys from our production crew said it looks fast even when it's standing still," said Mark Templin, Lexus Division group VP and general manager.

Hellwig said the IS, like many newly introduced luxury cars, will attempt to compete with the BMW 3 Series. He said Lexus "didn't do anything real dramatic. They went with a very evolutionary tact and tweaked a lot around the edges."

TrueCar's Toprak, in a prepared statement, said that "Lexus has a chance to bring a younger demographic to their brand with the new IS -- This vehicle has a chance to grab market share from competing vehicles in its segment and help Lexus to compete in the share of the luxury crown again."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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