At Detroit auto show, the hot cars use the least energy

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 12, 2010; 9:49 AM

The 2010 North American International Auto Show, which opened for previews Monday, is more subdued than in years past and reflects the diminished sales of the U.S. industry. But there were still cars that caught people's attention, mostly by catering to the new taste for fuel efficiency.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid won the 2010 North American Car of the Year, which is juried by automotive journalists. The company boasts that the car "is America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedan," with an EPA-estimated 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Ford also won the Truck of the Year award with its Transit Connect, a fuel-efficient commercial van.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said he was pleased by the sweep but portrayed the accolades as steps in a longer journey for the company. "We haven't won anything yet," he said at a dinner Monday night.

Even aside from those fuel-efficient winners, however, the entire show seemed made to glorify vehicles that run on less energy. An entire section of the floor is given over to "Electric Avenue," displaying the latest in electric cars, mostly from small companies.

Another car that drew attention was the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe, which is set to go on sale in the U.S. in the late summer and which company officials and analysts said was destined to prove that hybrids don't have to be frumpy or weak.

As the company puts it, the car is for people "with a spirit of adventure" and "an elevated sense of responsibility toward the environment."

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