Nobody could claim that the last couple of years haven't been tough for the US auto industry, but for the organizers of the country's largest auto show, there's no doubt that things are on the up.

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), held annually in America's capital of carmaking Detroit, has waxed and waned with its industry, seeing a fall in both exhibitors and attendees in recent years which left many wondering if the auto industry would ever be the same again.

As he prepares for the show's 23rd edition in January though, NAIAS chairman Barron Meade is certain that the industry has turned a corner.

"In 2009, we were asked if the industry would survive; and 2010 saw a building of momentum," Meade said December 17.

"In 2011, exhibitors and the NAIAS will deliver on the promise of the hard work and innovations alluded to along the way."

Those innovations are likely to come thick and fast when the show opens its doors to journalists on January 10 - more than 30 worldwide debuts are expected to be presented at the event.

Among the most anticipated press conferences will be Porsche, which will open the show and returns to the event after a three year hiatus with a host of new vehicle launches slated for the upcoming year.

After years of avoiding greener engines, America's automakers are set to push them centre stage at the 2011 show, with Chevrolet's newly-launched Volt electric vehicle - and a rumoured big brother in the form of an MPV - expected to be a highlight for visitors.

The Volt, along with the electric Nissan Leaf, will go up against the Hyundai Sonata at the North American Car of the Year Award ceremony, expected to be held at 8.00 AM on January 10.

It may sound like all of the excitement will be over when the show finally opens to the public on January 15, but eager enthusiast visitors are unlikely to be disappointed with the chance to see some of the 500 vehicles that will be on display after reading about them all week.

As always, the futuristic and the wacky will be lined up against models destined for the road in the not-too-distant future, with the best concepts highlighted at the 10th Annual Michelin Design Challenge Competition and the EyesOn Design Awards.

Over 714,000 visitors poured into the Cobo Center for NAIAS last year and with US auto sales on the up, it's likely that more will attend from Detroit and the surrounding regions to make their buying decisions.

The largest stands, as always, will belong to Detroit's big three (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler), but with a renewed sense of optimism in the automotive industry, which company will be making the biggest headlines is anyone's bet.

The North American International Auto Show is open to the public January 15 - 23 in Detroit, Michigan.

http://www.naias.com

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