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As L.A. Auto Show Opens, Which Green Can Save Industry?


What a difference a year makes.  Last year, the online publication CNET proclaimed of the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show:

The Los Angeles Auto Show's star grows brighter year by year, marking it asone of the more important auto shows worldwide. And it's no wonder,considering how much time Angelenos spend in their cars.

This year, the story is a far different one.  Two major car makers, GM and Chrysler, have both "all but pulled out" of a show that will be 20% smaller than last years.  Instead of a future that is bright and shiny, Wired describes the future as "gloomy."  In an era of rolling gas prices, people abandoning their cars for transit, bikes and sneakers, and consumers demanding cleaner vehicles; automakers are abandoning the SUV and now actively competing for who can be the greenest car maker around.

The industry has finally realized it has to start producing cleaner,greener vehicles if it is to not only survive, but thrive in an era ofvolatile fuel prices and tightening fuel economy and emissionsstandards. The L.A. Auto Show long been the place where the automakersroll out their most eco-friendly vehicles, but the trend hasaccelerated in recent years, said Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal and "It's a reflection of the market and a growing demand for these cars."

Those with keen memories may remember that last year a hybrid-SUV won the show's coveted "Green Car of the Year" award, leading to guffaws from some in the environmental community.  This year, none of the finalists are SUV's, leading me to hope that I'll never have to see a commercial about a "hybrid-hybrid."

Meanwhile, America's "Big Three" are competing for a different green.  In a hearing yesterday, the CEO's plead with Senators for a $25 billion check to bail out the industry.  Showing contempt for what the market is trying to tell them; GM's Rick Wagoner responded to a question asking if the industry would come back for more bailouts by snearing that  they wouldn't be back in a couple of months Senate can promise that the economy will turn around and people will buy cars before they run out of money again.

Given that attitude, it's no surprise that even Michigan native-son Mitt Romney wrote for today's New York Times that the bailout is a terrible idea.

Photo: Advanshop/Flickr

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