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Detroit Auto Show: It's All About Sales

The Detroit Auto Show, which threw open its doors Sunday at the Cobo Center, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. But these days it's called the North American International Auto Show. The fear of many is that it could well lose the first two words entirely.

This could be a make or break year for the Big Three U.S. automakers, which have dominated the convention for decades after it debuted in 1907. China is sending its second automaker this year--Changfeng. Chrysler is talking about a Chinese model called the Chery, which may be sold in the U.S. and Western Europe in two years under the Dodge name. GM, Ford and Chrysler, as well as their high-flying Japanese competitors, are hot on the trail of environmentally friendly cars, as well as high-end, high-priced technology across the board.

But if there are any dominant themes, they are luxury and efficiency. Luxury on the display floor and efficiency on production lines and in executive suites. New styles of power trains are also a hot topic. None of that will make much difference, however, if buyers don't step up. And that's the biggest fear in the auto industry this year.

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