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Auto Show Sizzlers and Snoozers

As the auto industry prepares to show its latest models and concept cars to the American public at downtown Detroit's Cobo Hall for the annual North American International Auto Show, the mood in the Motor City is decidedly edgy. The industry is as competitive as it has ever been. Every major carmaker has ratcheted up rebates, low-rate financing, and cheap leases over the past year just nudge sales up 1.4%.

Detroit Auto Show 2005 -- Slide Show

David's Picks

Katie's Picks

Lexus LF-A


Honda Ridgeline

$27,000 to $32,000

Volkswagen Jetta

$18,000 to $25,000

Ford Fairlane


Rolls Royce 100 EX


Ford SynUS


Saturn Aura


Toyota Avalon

$26,000 to $33,540

Jeep Gladiator


VW Ragster


General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) had rough years, both ceding sizable chunks of market share. Only Chrysler (DCX) is holding its ground. Even Honda (HMC) is looking for a way to reignite growth after a year of static sales. All the carmakers are hoping that some slick new models will catch consumer interest and help them get a jump on the competition.

Overall, the Detroit show lacked the splash of past years. Missing were any exotic sports car as elegant as last year's Ferrari Scaglietti to spark the passions of hard-core car buffs. Nor were there many redesigned versions of popular models like, say, a Toyota (TM) Camry, to stir the curiosity of legions of owners. Some of the concept cars were wildly unrealistic, like Ford's SynUS sport utility that resembled a bank vault on wheels. Others, like Chrysler's Firepower, showcase a possible exclusive sports car for the future.

But only a few concept cars were the kind that an everyday buyer might look at and say, "build me one of those, please." BusinessWeek Detroit Bureau Chief David Welch and Senior Correspondent Kathleen Kerwin cruised the show for three days. The table above has their picks and pans. Click on any car's name and launch a slide show that presents David's list of standouts, with comments on his choices from Katie. Then hers, with remarks from David.

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