The Los Angeles Car Show is normally a time of back slapping, smooth sales pitches and wide smiles. It seems a little different this year, according to attendees who have wandered the exhibit hall filled with shiny chrome.
"October was the worst month for U.S. auto sales in 25 years," said Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renalt. "Nothing is moving. The decline is not confined to the U.S. market; most of the mature auto markets, including Europe, Japan, are also down significantly, with slowdowns in the emerging markets as well."
If the Japanese carmakers are gloomy, who can just imagine how the contingent from Detroit feels. GM canceled its events but still has cars on display. It scratched plans to showcase a new Buick LaCross sedan and a new Cadillac model. Instead, it will lift the veil on those models in Detroit in January.
Chrysler has only a minimal presence at the show as well. Ford, on the other hand, is showing off a new Mustang model, as well as a restyled Fusion hybrid.
With hybrids in demand for much of the year, when gas prices were north of $3 a gallon, you might expect every carmaker to be going green. There were plenty of gasoline-electric hybrids to see, but not that many all-electric cars, the next-generation of green transportation. Honda is displaying the FC Sport, which is powered by a fuel cell, and BMW is displaying the Mini E, a battery-electric model.
Many of the hybrids on display have improved fuel economy and more power.
There's power to spare in the Mazda Kann, winner of the Los Angeles Auto Show's 2008 Design Challenge. The Mazda Kann is an electric race car that has a patented electronic tire system to reach 250 mph with no harmful emissions. It was chosen for how well it integrated a high level of innovation and technology into the design.
The Los Angeles Auto Show opened Friday and runs through November 30.