Ford was the only Detroit automaker to steer clear of bankruptcy and report a profit in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2009. The automaker will also introduce a remodeled Ford Focus, a compact car designed for customers in every region of the world. Ford Fiesta, a European hit, also will be on display.
The Chevy Volt, GM's highly publicized electric car, will likely be the company's most talked about car at the show. The Volt is due into dealer showrooms later this year. Like Ford, GM is hoping to improve sales in the compact and subcompact markets. To that end, the company is showcasing a tweaked Chevy Aveo and the Chevy Cruze at the show. GM has been touting the fact that the Cruze can pump out 40 mpg on the highway and that the car offers 10 airbags.
Cadillac will show its CTS-V coupe while Buick brings out a performance sedan concept car.
GM chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre seemed to downplay expectations at this year's annual gathering, saying during a conference call with reporters last week, "I asked the question [to my staff], 'Do we sell any cars at the auto show?'"
He instead pointed out that the show is a good opportunity for the company to show consumers a "new" GM.
Several companies have built high-tech interactive computers at their exhibits that allow a closer look at vehicles.
Chrysler doesn't have as much to show off this year as its Detroit rivals.
The company, which like GM, emerged from bankruptcy last year, is waiting for new products after integrating its technology with partner Fiat. The products should be unveiled in 2011 and 2012.
This year, Chrysler will present its Electric Fiat 500 concept and its FLO TV package. The Fiat 500 will reportedly have more than 5,000 lithium-ion battery cells and operate on a regenerative braking system that allows it to travel a total of 150 miles on a single charge. A television in cars is not new, but the idea of 20 channels of live programming is. FLO TV allows customers to get ESPN, Fox News, MSNBC, Comedy Central and more. The system will not work while the car is in gear for drivers who have front screens.
Among some of the other technology innovations from automakers that have generated a lot of pre-show buzz: Volvo shows its premium electric hatchback that has a range of 93 miles and fully charges in eight hours.
BMW introduces its electric version of the BMW 1-Series, which has a range of 100 miles and delivers 170 horsepower.
Honda will show off its 2011 Honda CR-Z Hybrid, a new, small, two-door hybrid; Nissan promotes the electric LEAF, which has a solar panel on the spoiler to charge the car's radio and clock; Toyota unveils its all-new third-generation 2010 Toyota Prius.
Toyota estimates its Prius will achieve a combined 50 mpg EPA city and highway ratings. The car uses a 1.8-liter inline-four-cylinder engine to achieve the impressive fuel economy.
Automakers say they want this year's show to transition from a display to an experience.
Several companies have built high-tech interactive computers at their exhibits that allow a closer look at vehicles. Ford's display gives people a 360 degree experience driving a Taurus. GM has touch screens that will feature information about vehicles and their technologies.
The company's hope the interactives make the gadgets and innovations in the cars on display look attractive.