Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Doors open at Detroit motor show

New look Ford Focus
The new Focus could bring Ford cost savings

The first Detroit motor show after US carmakers General Motors and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy has opened.

GM and Toyota showed off fuel efficient cars and Ford introduced a much-awaited update to its compact Ford Focus car.

The car, which goes into production in the US and Europe later this year, is a favourite of Ford boss Alan Mulally.

The BBC's Michelle Fleury in Detroit says Mr Mulally believes making a single vehicle for sale across the world will bring cost savings.

'Return to profit'

Our correspondent says that during the financial crisis Ford ditched brands like Land Rover and Jaguar, resulting in today's slimmer operation.

Furthermore, it borrowed enough money before the financial crisis to avoid needing a bailout.

"All of our products returned to profitability in the third quarter of 2009," Mr Mulally told the BBC's World Business Report.

The Detroit event, set to premiere 60 new models, remains the most important motor show in the US, in spite of the crisis that has rocked the industry.

Electric cars are to take centre stage, as Detroit tries to reinvent itself as a base for new automotive technologies.

Small petrol-powered cars are also due to be popular, a shift from previous years when large cars dominated.

Small and electric

The change in emphasis towards more fuel efficient cars comes as US drivers are becoming increasingly concerned with the cost of petrol.

Jorn Madslien
By Jorn Madslien, BBC News

If last year's motor show in Detroit was marked by crisis, this year it is characterised by a forward-looking industry eyeing opportunities.

But although all the three US carmakers are still in business, they will need masses of investment to remain competitive and to survive.

Such investment will not be forthcoming unless they change, however.

So expect to see a sharp shift towards electric motoring, aided by massive support from the Obama administration, as Detroit sets out to reinvent itself.

Regulatory requirements are also being tightened amidst an increasing focus on the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars in order to curb global warming.

Chrysler, which is now controlled by Fiat, is pinning its hopes on rebadged versions of the Italian carmaker's cars, while GM will unveil its Chevrolet Spark city car.

The hope is that Detroit's automotive industry can be revived, thus helping to create jobs in Michigan, where unemployment reached 15.8% last year.

But Detroit's incumbents will face tough competition from non-US carmakers.

European and Asian carmakers will place great emphasis on petrol-electric hybrids or electric concept cars at this year's show.

Luxury venue

Electric car plug
Detroit wants an electric auto industry

Beyond the ageing Cobo centre, an alternative show venue has popped up this year at the MGM Grand Detroit casino, where a string of European luxury car makers that have been staying away from Detroit in recent years are showing off their wares.

Supercars made by the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari will be on display, as will a stable of cars from UK carmakers Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin, all of them attracted back to the city by the ease and low cost of displaying at the casino rather than creating entire stands at the main show.

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