MORE than 50 vehicles made their world or North American premieres at the 2012 Los Angeles auto show, organizers proclaimed, during two days of press previews before the doors were opened to the public on Friday.
But to torture a baking analogy, by the time one separated the wheat from the chaff among the new models here, there were barely enough ingredients left to make a decent loaf of bread. This long-running but product-challenged show is about half a loaf short.
Important new models do lurk in the manufacturers' displays, including the latest Toyota RAV4, the redesigned Acura RLX, the next Subaru Forester, an expanded Hyundai Santa Fe, the latest Mazda 6 and, just 18 months after the introduction of a new generation, a refreshed Honda Civic.
These are high-volume models, but they rank firmly in the meat-and-potatoes categories of the industry. The fantastical, futuristic concepts and design studies that populate a major auto salon were fewer and farther between than usual here.
Like many international auto shows, the Los Angeles stop on the circuit suffered mightily through the recession. But in contrast to shows in Detroit, New York, Paris and Frankfurt, the Los Angeles event has not bounced back so strongly.
A more fundamental problem is that the Southern California stop on the circuit suffered as the January show in Detroit gained prominence. This year's schedule here, coinciding with the start of the holiday shopping frenzy, stands to further depress attendance. The show runs through Dec. 9 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Still, the show offers a first look at the 2014 model year debutantes. Besides the mainstream sedans and utility vehicles, Los Angeles remains an appropriate and traditional event at which to introduce products evocative of the California lifestyle: convertibles, electric cars and models that showcase fuel-saving technologies.
Chevrolet introduced an E.V. version of its Spark minicar here. Fiat unveiled a 500e that promises an all-electric range comparable to that of a Nissan Leaf. BMW showed the i3 Concept Coupe, a small runabout with crossover styling that could lead the company's line of electric cars.
One of the show's more ambitious offerings was a Mercedes-Benz design study, the Ener-G-Force S.U.V., which would be propelled by electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell. But like many such design studies, if a version of this G-Class concept ever did make it into production, it would be likely to receive a conventional powertrain.
Audi demonstrated its commitment to fuel-saving technology by introducing diesel-powered versions of its A6, A7 and A8 sedans and its Q5 and Q7 S.U.V.'s. Volkswagen said its new Beetle Convertible would also have a diesel option, and Mazda announced plans to include a diesel version of its Mazda 6 sedan. Ford displayed a 1-liter, 3-cylinder turbocharged engine that is to go on sale next year in its Fiesta subcompact.
High horsepower, of course, remains an attraction for showgoers, so the Mercedes-Benz AMG performance division unveiled three new models, including a Black Series SLS coupe with 622 horsepower; Volvo's Polestar concept tweaked an S60 sedan with a 508-horsepower motor; Nissan highlighted minor enhancements to its 545-horsepower GT-R sports car for 2014; and Jaguar put a 550-horsepower V-8 in its XFR-S sedan.
Providing essential components of driving fun were, in addition to the long-awaited convertible version of the latest VW Beetle, a new generation of the Porsche Cayman and a Hyundai design study, based on the Veloster, called the C3 Roll Top Concept. The clever coupe had its hatchback reconfigured around a sliding, tarp-covered roof opening and a drop-down tailgate.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.