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Can Frankfurt Bring Optimism Back to Car Lovers?

Frankfurt Auto Show
AP
Frankfurt Auto Show

Frankfurt - After a year of going to auto shows that felt more like wakes, there's a sense the Frankfurt Auto Show starting Tuesday will bring optimism back to the industry.

Call it premature. Call it wishful thinking.

Call it whatever you like. But for those who relish auto shows because of the new models, styles, and trends they unveil, this could be the start of seeing the car business focus on cars.

Frankfurt has always been the auto show where cars take center stage. And this year, there will be a slew getting plenty of attention. Whether it's the new Prius plug-in hybrid or the latest from Lamborghini, there will be a great mix of eye candy and important mass market models. But more importantly, there is a feeling the car companies can finally get back to focusing on cars, and that it's perfectly fine to get excited about what they are rolling out.

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That hasn't been the case for the last year. In Detroit last January folks gloomily walked around a barren Chrysler stand. In Chicago the GM press conference was so low key one reporter said to me, "Are these guys afraid to smile?" New York wasn't much better. In fact, you could say the last 12 months of auto shows were forgettable.

Will Frankfurt be different? Somewhat. There is still a funk hanging over the auto industry. But the successful bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, cash for clunkers, and slowly improving global economy all have people believing the worst has passed. We're still a ways from how it was 3 or 4 years ago when the concepts and production models made you say, "Wow". Sure, you knew most of them were never going to make it into showrooms, still there stirred the imagination.

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Let's see if Frankfurt means a new day is dawning for car lovers. If so, it will continue in Tokyo next month and in L.A. In December. Who knows, maybe we'll finally see some true excitement when the auto makers roll out a new model.

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