The 2012 North American International Auto Show opened in Detroit on Saturday, and one early winner at the show was Hyundai, whose Elantra beat out the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Passat to win North American Car of the Year. As AP reported:

The prestigious industry award was announced at the start of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which hosts media previews this week and opens to the public on Saturday.

The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque won the North American Truck of the Year, beating the BMW X3 and Honda CR-V. The Evoque, which starts at $43,995, gets an estimated 18 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.

Jaguar Land Rover North America President Andy Goss said it’s a tremendous honor and humbling for the company, which has had had finalists but never a winner in the 19th annual independent awards program.

“We’re going to market the hell out of this,” said a smiling Goss on a stage above the four-cylinder sport-utility vehicle. The U.S. is the world’s largest Range Rover market.

Fifty automotive journalists voted on the winning vehicles from a group of finalists, and the vehicles must be all new or substantially changed to be eligible. Organizers accept no advertising, though automakers capitalize on the marketing value of the honors.

Also looking to boost its brand is Ford, which unveiled its next-generation Ford Fusion at the auto show. As reported:

Car shoppers returned to family sedans in December, and a fresh round of products will greet them in 2012. Ford kicks things off with the next-generation Fusion, which hits U.S. dealers this fall and international markets as the Mondeo in early 2013.

Ford says 70% of consumers see midsize sedans as a lookalike group, and 43% who trade theirs in say they did so just to have something different. The Fusion cuts through this, falling into Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata territory for outside-the-box styling. Design cues mirror the Evos Concept from last year's Frankfurt Motor Show, with thin headlamps that sweep clear toward the front fenders and a low, forward grille. The beltline stays visually flat — in contrast to the rising lines on most sedans — and the bumper runs flush with the trunk lid, with integrated tailpipes beneath. Wheels range from 16 to 19 inches, and trim levels include the S, SE and Titanium. There will also be Fusion Hybrid and plug-in Energi models; the Energi arrives closer to the end of the year.

Inside, the Fusion adopts MyFord Touch with a few more physical keys, as well as detents to help your fingers find the touch points. Thinner seats free up rear legroom, and Ford says it moved the dash closer to the windshield for an "airy, open environment" — a different tack from the larger Taurus, which is anything but. High-tech safety options rival many luxury cars, with lane departure warning and mitigation systems, drowsy-driver detection and adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning. A blind spot warning system, cross-traffic alert and Ford's automatic parking system are also optional.

Cadillac is also using the Detroit Auto Show to showcase a new model it hopes can compete with BMW’s 3-series and the Audi A4, the Cadillac ATS. As explained:

Cadillac had fighting words backing up the ATS , a car that GM North America president Mark Reuss said will challenge German supremacy in the sport-sedan segment. Touting the brand's latest small sedan, Reuss said the ATS is "the most mass-efficient car in its segment," with a curb weight of well under 3,400 pounds. The proof will be in the driving, but the ATS fits the Cadillac lineup and it doesn't look deliberately scaled down.

More 2012 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

Photos don't do the headlights justice. They're intriguing. They sweep over the fenders, ending above the front axle, and there’s a bit of first-gen CTS in their character. It's a cool look. A shoulder line appears under the C-pillar, sweeping around the tail. It looks OK, but I found the rear too busy and a bit forgettable. The wheels max out at 18 inches — appropriate here, if smaller than some rivals' wheels — to keep unsprung weight down, Cadillac says.

Cabin materials are good — BMW 3 Series good — with available carbon fiber and stitched panels atop the dash and doors. An official told me it’s faux leather, and it feels more tautly stretched than the ultra-padded faux-leather dash in the CTS. But it fits the character of a sport sedan, and all the important areas – where your knees would dig into during hard corners, for example — are padded. I’m sold.

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