Ford's New Truck, GM's New CEO Star At Detroit Auto Show

The North American International Auto Show — the fancy name for the Detroit car show — opens to the public Saturday. NPR's Sonari Glinton gives NPR's Lynn Neary a sneak preview from the Motor City.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

The North American International Auto Show opens to the public today. That's the fancy name for the Detroit car show. NPR's Sonari Glinton has been getting a sneak preview in the Motor City, hanging out with engineers and auto execs. And he's with us now. Good to talk with you, Sonari.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: It's good to be here, Lynn.

NEARY: Now, you've spent, I think, four days at the car show. What are the standouts?

GLINTON: Well, I'd say there were two stars. So, one was a truck; the other was a company. The Truck is the Ford F-150. It's the best-selling vehicle in America for 30 years running. And it got a radical redesign. They made the body partially out of aluminum. And that means it's going to be a lot lighter and a lot more fuel efficient. And fuel efficiency is a really big deal at this car show. The second is General Motors. They won truck of the year for the Silverado and car of the year with the Corvette. But I'd say kind of the real star at GM is their brand new CEO, Mary Barra.

NEARY: Well, let's talk about those two things separately. Let's start with Mary Barra. First of all, did she have any news?

GLINTON: She didn't really say that much. She didn't make much time for any chats individually with reporters. So, that sort of created this surreal atmosphere at the auto show. It was like Angelina Jolie showed up. And every time she was someplace, the press, you know, swarmed her like paparazzi. And to give you an example. Vice President Biden visited the floor on Thursday and he met with all the heads of all the companies. And when he got to GM, the press was far more interested in Mary Barra than they were with the vice president.

NEARY: Tell, what is the fascination with her?

GLINTON: Well, the one obvious thing is that she's a female CEO in a really traditionally male world. And the auto industry is still sort of going through these changes and it's having trouble recruiting top talent - recruiting women, recruiting young people who are really interested in design. You know, why go to Detroit when you can go to Silicon Valley? So, she's kind of the emblem of that problem that it took so long for a CEO to be a woman, and that's a story that people want to hear about her rise through the auto industry.

NEARY: So, let's go back to that truck that caught your eye, the Ford F-150. What makes that truck so important?

GLINTON: Well, you know, fuel economy is really important at this auto show because the auto industry has to, you know, meet these really tough fuel efficiency standards - 55 miles a gallon. And we're getting there slowly. And you can do it two ways. You can change the engine and the kinds of fuels and the way it's run or you can change the body of the vehicle. And what Ford did with the F-150 is that they are taking about 700 pounds out of this vehicle. And this is such a big-selling car that making it even a little more fuel efficient will have a tremendous effect on the fuel efficiency of the fleet. And the technology, if it works, we're going to see it trickle into cars that everyone is driving.

NEARY: That's NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton. And he joined us from the studios of Michigan Radio. Thanks for being with us, Sonari.

GLINTON: It's great to be here.

NEARY: This is NPR News.

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