US 'big three'

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US 'big three'

If motor shows are any kind of barometer of the health of the industry, the news coming out of Detroit this week is that European and Asian companies are in far better shape than the Americans.

Admittedly, the most important debut was the new Ford Focus that goes on sale in just under a year, and Ford is an American company. However, the Focus was entirely designed and engineered in Europe; it is a global car only because Ford has decided to make it so under its One Ford engineering and marketing strategy. The Focus looks European and, unless we're very much mistaken, it will feel European to drive.

At least Ford is now functioning profitably all its operations throughout the world were in the black in the third quarter of 2009. If Detroit was anything to go by, things aren't quite so chipper at General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, which both went through bankruptcy protection in 2009.

General Motors
GM's new offerings with global sales possibilities were the Chevrolet Aveo RS, a study for a small hot hatch; the Cadillac CTS-V coupe, a 550bhp V8 rival for Mercedes' E-Class AMG coupe; and the XTS, a large saloon concept. There's nothing that will sell in huge volumes in the States.

GM appears to be pinning its hopes on the Volt, an electric car with a small petrol engine to extend its range, which was wheeled out yet again. It goes on sale in the US this year and in Europe as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera in 2011-12.

Chrysler, now under part Fiat ownership, had an electric Fiat 500 and a Lancia Delta looking rather embarrassed behind a Chrysler grille. Shamefully, though, it failed to stage presentations for either, it had no-one on hand to talk about them and did not even have any printed material giving details.