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Posted at 8:38 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Auto show kicks off in Detroit

By Peter Whoriskey

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A man walks through the Audi display at the company's booth during the press preview day at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 10, 2011. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

The North American International Auto Show opens for previews this morning, with U.S. automakers trying to flex their post-bailout muscle with a range of showy offerings, and a restoration of the hoopla that attended the event before the industry's near-death experience a few years ago.

About 35 new vehicles are expected to be unveiled at the show, from automakers across the world.

Among them are expected two all-new small cars today from General Motors, the compact Buick Verano and the relatively tiny Chevrolet Sonic. Ford Motor Co. is highlighting its C-Max, a seven-passenger compact minivan.

This year's auto show is expected to reflect the newfound strength of all the U.S. automakers. Sales are significantly up at all three, and each is profitable, or nearly so. Through the third quarter, Ford's net income reached more than $6 billion, GM's more than $4 billion and Chrysler boasted positive operating income.

And in a cherished measure of vindication, Consumer Reports, says surveyed car owners view the Ford brand as nearly equal to the Toyota brand. On factors of safety, quality and value, customers rank Ford better than Toyota. The profits and plaudits have given the companies momentum going into the event.

For those who might read interest in the auto show as an economic indicator, and some do, attendance is expected to be sharply up. More than 5,000 members of the media have registered for this year's show, organizers say, up from 4,536 last year.

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By Peter Whoriskey  | January 10, 2011; 8:38 AM ET
 
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