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Big Three show off their stuff at Detroit auto show

The 2013 Dodge Dart is unveiled North American International AuShow Monday Jan. 9 2012 Detroit Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

The 2013 Dodge Dart is unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in Detroit, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

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Updated: February 11, 2012 8:11AM



If the new Dodge Dart sells anything like the original, Chrysler will have the small-car hit it needs.

The reinvented compact, unveiled at the Detroit auto show Monday, is nothing like its predecessor from the 1960s and ‘70s. But Chrysler is counting on the Dart, and its zippy name, to help it sell more small cars and continue its recent revival. What a difference a year makes. Detroit’s North American International Auto Show opened Monday with Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC back in the black, and with the Big Three boosting their their collective market share for the first time since 1988.

But the domestic manufacturers still have less than half of the U.S. market — 47.1 percent in 2011 — and Nissan Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. expect to be much stronger in 2012 as they continue to rebuild from last March’s earthquake in Japan.

Yet General Motors Co. is on track to retake the title of world’s top-selling automaker, riding strong sales in the U.S. and China to beat Volkswagen and Toyota.

GM, which lost the crown to Toyota in 2008 after holding it for more than seven decades, won’t release global sales numbers until later this month, but it’s on pace to finish 2011 at around 9 million cars and trucks, at least 800,000 more than its German and Japanese rivals.

Winning the global sales crown doesn’t mean much to a company’s bottom line, but for GM, it’s an example of just how far the company has come since it nearly collapsed in financial ruin back in 2009. That year, the company sold only 7.5 million vehicles. GM executives have consistently said they’re more focused on making money than outselling Toyota or Volkswagen.

Highlights from the show’s opening day:

Chrysler unveils the Dodge Dart

If the new Dodge Dart sells anything like the original, Chrysler will have the small-car hit it needs.

The reinvented compact is nothing like its predecessor from the 1960s and ’70s. But Chrysler is counting on the Dart, and its zippy name, to help it sell more small cars and continue its recent revival.

Instead of the somewhat boxy lines of the original, the new Dart has the sleek stance of a modern muscle-car, with a short hood, long roof and slightly flared fenders. And it’s based on the frame and suspension of a crisp-handling Alfa Romeo hatchback brought over by Chrysler’s Italian owner, Fiat SpA.

Top car and truck award

The North American Car and Truck of the Year award winners are the Hyundai Elantra and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque.

The sleek and sculpted Elantra starts at $16,445. The compact car gets an estimated 33 mpg. The Evoque, a small, angular SUV which starts at $43,995, gets an estimated 18 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.

Reporters rushed the stage after the announcement to interview the assembled auto bosses, contorting themselves to get a camera or audio recorder in position and creating the first of many media scrums to come during the show’s two-day media preview.

Each of the winning vehicles’ production teams hopes it has built an auto-version of “Slumdog Millionaire,” the 2009 film that the Oscar helped turn into a sensation, and not 2010’s “The Hurt Locker,” the lowest-grossing best picture winner since accurate records have been kept.

Hybrid Jetta

Volkswagen AG on Monday showed off a new hybrid version of its Jetta sedan, designed with the U.S. market in mind and offering an estimated combined 45 mpg.

The hybrid Jetta, which will go on sale in North America before the end of the year, is a key part of Volkswagen’s plan to boost its U.S. sales, company officials told reporters at the North American International Auto Show press days in Detroit. Its North American sales rose 26 percent last year.



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