Auto makers may be cutting back on future new product programs behind the scenes, but they are showing off plenty of interesting new iron at this month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit (Jan. 12-21).

Criticized for displaying “angry appliances” last year, the Chrysler Group should wow potential buyers this year with its Pacifica tall wagon, a sexy production version of its '04 Crossfire sports car and some interesting concept cars and trucks aimed at the youth market.

Due in Chrysler dealerships late this year, the sleek and luxurious Chrysler Pacifica likely will be one of the show's standouts. An evolution of Chrysler's Citadel concept from 1999, the tall wagon sits lower and doesn't have the “neither fish nor fowl” look of current crossover vehicles but offers plenty of room inside and all-wheel drive.

Ford Motor Co.'s concept contingent draws heavily on history and mythology. The latter is a dreamy homage to Tonka, a staple in every sandbox for two generations.

Ford's high-riding Tonka truck — in yellow, of course — features an air suspension system that makes the vehicle “kneel” like a circus elephant. Also notable are its utilitarian interior — complete with hide-away toolboxes — and its stainless steel running boards, which deploy automatically, similar to last year's Explorer-based Sportsman concept.

But Ford's biggest splash undoubtedly comes from its updated GT40 — a slightly larger, more stable, street-legal version of the sports car that swept Le Mans in 1966. If integrated into Ford's production plans, the automaker's chief designer J. Mays promises drivers the unmistakable joy of “American V-8 power.”

General Motors Corp. promised some surprises that bear the signature of new product development chief Bob Lutz. A couple of known eye-catchers will be the Cadillac Cien concept (already revealed elsewhere), a midengine 2-seater powered by an all-new Cadillac V-12, and the Chevrolet Warrior, which is a smaller version of the Avalanche, based on a long-wheelbase TrailBlazer SUV. Another interesting concept is the Terra4, which will feature 4-wheel steering, four doors and a roll-up decklid cover.

One of the more engaging production vehicles from across the pond is the Volvo XC90, which goes on sale in the fall. It's a bigger version of the company's XC70 Cross Country vehicle, and it seats seven.

Honda's Acura MDX SUV is a runaway success, so the downscale Honda version, called the Pilot (it replaces the aging Passport) should garner lots of attention not only from potential buyers but from competitors as well. It's due out next summer.

Other production cars worthy of note at at NAIAS are BMW AG's controversial 7-Series, the new Mercedes-Benz SL coupe and roadster, and the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and 911 Carrera Targa.