Yes, there were more than fifty new products on display at the 2008 North American International Auto show, but that does not mean it was a benchmark show; it was in fact perhaps the least interesting Detroit show in the last twenty years. It was operating under a “green” cloud, with even Ferrari showing up with a ridiculous set of green spark plug wires on a display engine to show that its heart is in the right place, however much CO2 its engines may spew. That you can run some ethanol in a Ferrari should not be news. Presumably that has been possible in Brazil for years.

Along with pious protestations of ecological virtue, manufacturers continue to showcase cars with more than 500 horsepower. The impressive Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 claimed at least 620 bhp, and Chrysler’s Viper is on sale with 600. It is safe to say that, however interesting those 300-plus Kph two seat roadsters may be, they have little relevance to today’s vital concerns. Four door sedans with 550 bhp, like the dramatic Cadillac CTS-V or AMG Mercedes or BMW M-cars or 320 kph-plus Bentleys are no closer to reality, even if they will carry twice as many people to two and a half times the highest posted speed limit in the world.

There were rational vehicles on hand, many of them hybrids of one sort or another, although it is tempting to call them “Hype brids” because many of them exist only so they can be talked about.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 169

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