As Detroit Auto Show Opens, Revival And Reservations For An Industry

Porsche is back.

So are two of the big three.

The German automaker is participating in Detroit's North American International Auto Show after a three year absence, while Ford Motor and General Motors are enjoying revivals that are boosting their sales and reputations.

Detroit Auto Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report
Detroit Auto Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report

Both companies posted sales gains of around 20-percent in 2010.

What will be missing when the auto show kicks off in Cobo Hall Monday is the gloom of the past two years, when attendance was well below the 800,000-plus-level of the 2003-2004 years.

The show, which opens to the media Monday and the general public Jan. 15-23, is expected to sport the debut of some 30-40 new vehicles. Ford Motor is among them.

Ford's Time

Of all the companies participating, Ford might have the best case for bragging rights. Sales are booming, new models are succeeding and consumers now view the company with the same high regard as Totoya.

True believers and the I-told-you-so crowd may also be tempted to point out that CEO Alan Mulally, who was deemed a somewhat risky pick when he was poached from Boeing three years ago.

Mulally was recently named Morignstar's CEO of the year, which also just raised the firm's credit rating two notches, and our own auto reporter Phil LeBeauis predicting a banner year for profits.

GM , meanwhile, went public and the stock continues to trade above its offer price.

All is not well, however, with the company and the industry. Ford is still two to four notches below investment grade rating between Standard and Poor's, Fitch Ratings and Moody's.

Unit sales in 2010, though well above the 28-year low of 2009, are still millions below the 16-17-million rate of the go-go period half a just a few years ago. Consumers and companies are still guarding their cash closely. Energy prices are rising.

Thousands of jobs that were cut have yet to be restored.

Still, few are complaining. That will be more than evident in our special report in the days ahead when you'll hear from the major players in the industry.

We'll also bring you the latest in car candy from the show.

In the mean time, take our poll and quiz.