Car company executives, economists and analysts at the automotive analysts' gathering are tracking the housing recovery, interest rates, the unemployment rate and consumer confidence as they work to understand how the industry will perform in the coming year.
James A. Davlin, vice president of finance and treasurer of General Motors, said his company isn't expecting a speedy rebound in the U.S. economy but it also doesn't foresee a double-dip into recessionary mode.
General Motors is still hopeful it can regain an investment grade rating from agencies such as Standard & Poor's, Mr. Davlin said, adding the company is pleased that the U.S. Treasury's ownership of GM stock should end in the next year or so.
"I think that is a major milestone because we lose the stigma of 'Government Motors,' " he told the analysts' group.
Several speakers at the event discussed the growing importance of emerging markets such as China and Brazil in industry sales, although they also pointed to the weakness of the eurozone as a problem.
That weakness, Mr. Pugh said, might have been a factor in companies like Audi bringing new vehicles to the big U.S. show.
"North America is a place where people are buying cars," he said.
The auto show in Detroit opens to the public Saturday and continues through Jan. 27.
New Corvette cited as the show's most popular attraction.