THE annual North American International Auto Show, which opens in Detroit on Monday with two days of press previews, is off life support after a few touch-and-go years when various automakers pulled out and some threatened to go elsewhere.
More than 50 concept cars and production models are set to be revealed. While the volume of introductions is not overwhelming -- shows in Geneva, Paris and Frankfurt may feature twice as many -- the vehicles being shown are critically important, including new pickup truck designs from Ford and General Motors, revamped Mercedes-Benz E-Class models and a next-generation Chevrolet Corvette.
Sales ended 2012 on a strong note, so automakers are unveiling their latest models with high expectations. Here are some of the anticipated highlights:
ACURA The MDX crossover gets a complete makeover, including a much-needed nose job, in a concept version that is likely to differ relatively little from the production-ready version that will be seen at the New York auto show in March.
AUDI Having rolled out new versions of its top sellers over the last couple of years, Audi will be in Detroit to promote performance tweaks for the existing lineup. In addition to a mild face-lift of the R8 supercar, Audi will show a convertible version of its powerful RS5 coupe, an S-Line performance version of the Q5 crossover and possibly an RS version of its big A7.
BENTLEY With 625 horsepower and a top speed of 202 m.p.h., the latest version of the Continental GTC Speed convertible will be an even faster version of what I once called the world's fastest four-person hair dryer.
BMW The popular 3 Series coupes are being revised and spun off into a new 4 Series line; the new car is longer, lower, wider and curvier. BMW is also showing a high-performance 560-horsepower M version of the 6 Series Gran Coupe.
CADILLAC Remember the Converj concept coupe that Cadillac unveiled to great fanfare in 2009? It's back in revised form as the 2014 ELR plug-in hybrid, which some are calling the "Voltillac" because of the car's electronic kinship with the Chevrolet Volt.
CHEVROLET Promoting the new seventh-generation Corvette is Chevy's main aim at the show. But while the halo sports car is certainly the most delectable morsel on G.M.'s dessert menu, meat-and-potato entrees will also be served, like the 2014 Silverado pickup and Impala sedan.
CHRYSLER With little actual news, Chrysler's marketers turned to conjuring up special packages for existing models like the 300 sedan. The latest is a Motown-theme version with a sound system enhanced for rhythm and blues and preloaded songs by Motown stars.
DODGE In recent years, Dodge was stripped of its truck line (now badged as Rams), its Viper sports car (now an SRT) and its Magnum wagon (now deader than Plymouth). So Dodge will concentrate on its Dart subcompact at the show, adding a GT version with added power and performance.
FORD The long-running game of crosstown one-upmanship continues as Ford rushes to greet G.M.'s new pickups with a sneak preview of its still-percolating 2015 F-150. Ford is also showing new Transit vans, a new turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and a 5-cylinder 3.2-liter diesel engine.
HONDA With the CR-V enlarged and the Element discontinued, Honda has a hole at the low end of its crossover lineup. So it will show a concept version of a model based on the Fit hatchback. Production is expected in Mexico in 2014.
HYUNDAI Having made no secret of its desire to move upmarket, the Korean automaker will unveil a luxury sedan concept that could be the basis for the next-generation Genesis sedan, expected as a 2014 model.
INFINITI The G37 entry-luxury sedan has been redesigned and gets a new name: the Q50. The larger M sedan becomes the Q70, but it will remain largely unchanged for now.
JEEP Didn't we just see a new Grand Cherokee? If that's how it seems, you're probably thinking of the recent SRT version. But it's already time for a restyled and re-engineered Grand Cherokee. The 2014 model will get much better fuel economy with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and both diesel and SRT performance versions will be offered.
LEXUS The LF-CC concept shown in September in Paris has changed, slightly, into the production version of the IS compact sedan. The IS, which will also come later as a hybrid, shares a platform and a 3.5-liter V-6 with the larger GS sedan. But for those Lexus buyers who have been clamoring for even less power and torque, an entry-level 2.5-liter 4-cylinder will also be offered.
LINCOLN Desperate for a reset, Ford's luxury division is now calling itself the Lincoln Motor Company, and its business plan is to remake Fords into Lincolns by adding features and raising prices. The latest of these is the MKC, a well-garnished rendition of the latest Ford Escape.
MASERATI Although this Fiat-owned brand has aspirations to sell a lot more cars than it does now, that's a tall order for a company with essentially two models. But the redesigned Quattroporte sedan, to be shown here, should provide a jump start.
MAZDA NBC once used the slogan "It's New to You!" to promote reruns of shows you might have missed. That would work for the Mazda 6 as well: for some inexplicable reason, Mazda unveiled its biggest sedan at the Moscow auto show. It was put on display again, with little fanfare, in Los Angeles six weeks ago. Now, in case you missed it, it will appear in Detroit. The car, which will bring new fuel-saving technology to a highly competitive class, is actually worth a look.
MERCEDES-BENZ One might think that Mercedes would have reserved its showing of the midcycle revamping of the E-Class sedan and wagon for one of the European shows later this year. But the car is an icon in America -- it's a taxi in Germany -- and will thus make its debut in America. The biggest Mercedes news will not happen in the show hall, but at an off-site gala where the 2014 CLA, a small $30,000 front-drive sedan, will get a sneak preview. It will then be whisked away until its official debut at the Geneva show in March.
NISSAN For those disappointed that the restyled 2013 Versa lineup did not include a hatchback, the mourning is over. The 2014 hatchback will be featured at a lavish new display stand, a splashy embrace of a show that Nissan actually skipped for three years when the industry was on the ropes. Nissan will also show a hybrid design study, the Resonance, that will hint at the look of the brand's future crossovers.
TOYOTA Secrecy has been tight around the Furia concept car, but a few teaser photos suggest that this design might bring some bright new ideas for the mousy, workaday Corolla sedan.
VOLKSWAGEN A seven-seat S.U.V. design study is expected, along with a Passat concept car with a more powerful engine.autonews
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.