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Detroit's new small world showcased at NAIAS 2010

Major US automakers have looked overseas for their small-car vision, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Detroit Auto Show has played host to some glittering product introductions in its 102-year history. In 1992, then Chrysler President Robert Lutz drove the new Jeep Grand Cherokee through a window of the Cobo centre to introduce the vehicle. Today, the show is more reserved.

At the first show since the bankruptcy of Chrysler and General Motors, the hype around new models - where they exist - is that they are overwhelmingly on the small side. GM has showcased the Aveo RS Show Car, a concept vehicle aimed at young people that is "European-inspired." Alongside it, the new Chevrolet Cruze compact, already available in Asia and Europe, is due to launch in the US later this year. Smaller still is the Chevrolet Spark, the smallest member of Chevrolet's family of cars, due for introduction in 2012.

"Our new small cars and the Volt electric vehicle with extended-range capabilities represent cornerstones in Chevrolet's gas-friendly to gas-free approach," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet general manager. "We expect the trio of Spark, Aveo and Cruze to be fuel economy leaders."

Ford's display may be 48 percent larger than last year, but its cars are downsizing. At the Los Angeles Auto Show in December, it announced the re-introduction of the European supermini Fiesta to the US market. On January 11, it revealed the new Focus, a worldwide model that "combines the best from Europe, North America and Asia."

"Global customers increasingly want smaller cars with outstanding fuel economy, but without sacrificing any of the style, technology, connectivity and driving quality they demand from larger vehicles," explained Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of Global Product Development. "Our next generation of C-cars - led by the exciting new Focus - will clearly show that Ford is ready to meet that challenge."

The third member of the Detroit three has bucked the trend, albeit quietly. Chrysler, sharing a space with new Italian owner Fiat, debuted three new Jeep models without a scheduled press conference. The Liberty Renegade, Wrangler Islander and Wrangler Mountain will be available in US showrooms by the middle of 2010, according to the firm.