2009 North American International Auto Show Pictures

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While most said that the 2009 North American International Auto Show was going to be a bit of a bust, I was still more excited to go then previous years. I didn't care that Nissan, Porsche, Land Rover, Ferrari and a few others won't be there as I was mainly interested in seeing the new Honda Insight, the new Toyota Prius, the Chevy Volt and the Dodge Circuit.

I'm going to be clear that I'm not happy Honda has stolen the name of the Insight and used it to market their Prius clone. As I am an owner of a real 2000 Insight, I am both disappointed and offended that Honda would take it's name and slap it on what is essentially their version of the Prius, in styling, marketing and mileage numbers. While I am happy that Honda is going to produce a hybrid that will be successful (the low price and Prius looks guarantee it) it is wrong to take the name of the Insight and stick it on a car that most real Insight owners would consider to be inferior to the original. Regardless it will likely do well in the market as their price point is supposed to be around $20,000 and the 5 door configuration will mean it will appeal to a wider market that would have considered the original two seater real Insight to be "impractical".

I'm not a huge fan of the Prius (to me it's boring and the mileage is nothing compared to my Insight) but Toyota continues to improve it to make a better and better car. They have redesigned the drivetrain and include a number of new tricks, one of which is to salvage waste exhaust heat to warm the engine up more quickly. With the aero changes, mileage will be increased and I think it looks far more aggressive. Still boring, but at least it's more aggressive at being boring.

The Dodge Circuit is great. Built on a Lotus chassis, it's the first time in a long while that a North American manufacturer has built a real sports car! And it's electric! I'm hoping that it makes it to the market, because I will almost certainly buy one. GM could learn a bit from Dodge regarding building nice EVs. GM has taken the Volt and essentially turned it into a series hybrid Malibu. Gone is the striking, strong and aggressive styling of the concept. Now it's a slightly more aerodynamic Malibu and is expected to cost $40,000. We'll see if GM gets it to the market before Toyota gets their plugin Prius out. If not, then the Volt will be a flop.

I enjoyed the rest of the show as well. It was nice to see all manufacturers concentrate on building interesting and efficient vehicles. With so many manufacturers pulled out of the show, their space went to the Chinese manufacturers. Brilliant and BYD had large and impressive displays. The public seemed far more accepting of their vehicles since last year so I suspect that once available in the North American market, they will take a big chunk of the low end segment.

I'd also like to thank the guys of Left Lane News for allowing me to tag along with them for a ride in a GM fuel cell Equinox EV. It was a neat experience. I don't believe that fuel cells will ever be road worthy (as do most fuel cell engineers I speak to) but it was great to see how refined the technology was for all the money wasted on it instead of battery development.

Notice I didn't mention Mazda? That's because their booth wasn't worth mentioning. Seriously guys, if you have nothing new to bring, then bring something vintage.

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