STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
In its annual showcase of new products, GM, Ford, and Chrysler focused on humility and sustainability. They emphasized more fuel-efficient cars, and they avoided big publicity stunts. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports on the contrast with just a year ago.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAST YEAR'S DETROIT AUTO SHOW)
D: In just a few seconds, they're going to show the all-new Dodge Ram pickup. We're expecting a cattle drive down the street, and it should be really exciting. Chrysler never disappoints.
FRANK LANGFITT: That's how Chrysler kicked off last year's auto show. 130 head of longhorn steer accompanied the truck through the streets of Detroit. This year, everything was different. Instead of a waterfall which spelled out Jeep, there was a curtain of electric cords signifying the company's electric car offerings. Jim Press, Chrysler's co-president, acknowledged the contrast.
JIM PRESS: Probably like me, you're looking to see if the cows are behind me.
LANGFITT: The company's financial crisis hung over the event like a cloud. Chrysler had to borrow $4 billion from the government last month just to keep operating. Press tried to joke about it while introducing company executives, including the chief financial officer.
PRESS: The government checks go right to Ron Kolka.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
PRESS: So if anybody needs a loan, see Ron Kolka.
(SOUNDBITE OF CLAPPING)
LANGFITT: Frank Klegon, who oversees product development, introduced three new electric vehicles.
FRANK KLEGON: So let's see it now, the Dodge Circuit EV.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LANGFITT: After the unveiling, CEO Robert Nardelli took questions not about the vehicles, but Chrysler's future.
ROBERT NARDELLI: You know, a lot of people, some naysayers maybe would like to see Chrysler go away. But we're here to tell you that we're going to prove them wrong.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
LANGFITT: The scene over at General Motors was more upbeat. Company employees gathered to greet the new models. They waved blue and green signs that read 40 miles a gallon and here to stay. Soon, the new GM cars came rolling down the carpet. GM executive Bob Lutz introduced the star of the show.
BOB LUTZ: Ladies and gentlemen, the Cadillac Converj concept.
LANGFITT: Frank Warren is 49 and works at a GM transmission plant. He says the auto workers have already given up enough.
FRANK WARREN: We've given up positions that it's taken 30 years to get. We've got workers coming into our doors now making $14 an hour without healthcare. Can you support your family on $14 an hour and pay a mortgage? I don't think so.
LANGFITT: Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Detroit.
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