In this harsh economic climate, auto shows are going lean. Lavish parties and Hollywood-style vehicle debuts are passé. Back is the low drama of pulling a sheet off a car.

Some people might not like that trend, but the organizers of the Chicago Auto Show are quick to point out that auto shows exist for one reason only: to move the metal.

“It's time to say good-bye to the days of over-indulgence in auto shows,” says John Krafcik, CEO and president of Hyundai Motor America.

Some cost-cutting auto makers took advantage of a new common staging area for debuts at Chicago's McCormick Center, offered at no charge.

Likewise, the product unveilings in Chicago reflected the premium placed on value and utility, rather than wretched excess.

Kia Motors America unveiled its new '10 Forte compact sedan, with its hunkered-down look and crisp lines.

The Forte replaces the Spectra, a no-frills car that had a decent 9-year run with steady annual sales in the U.S. of about 70,000 units, making it Kia's most-popular model. The Forte will be available in the U.S. this summer.

Ford Motor Co. unveiled the all-wheel-drive '10 Taurus Super High Output (SHO) in a bid to resurrect the performance-oriented sedan as a distinct player in the fullsize sedan market.

Ford offered the first SHO in 1989 and pulled the plug on the performance sedan a decade later after selling 100,000 units. Ford decided to reintroduce the SHO about a year ago, as work progressed on the all-new '10 Taurus sedan.

Ford also uncovered its upcoming Transit Connect commercial vans in hopes of appealing to more than just small business owners and fleet operators.

Ford of Europe first launched the small commercial van in 2003, and more than 600,000 units have been sold since then.

The Transit Connect will be sold in North America beginning this year featuring a gasoline engine, followed by an electric-range model in 2010.

General Motors Corp. displayed a Corvette concept that will make it to Hollywood but isn't likely to end up on the public streets.

The concept, which will be featured as the character “Sideswipe” in the upcoming “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” film to hit U.S. screens June 26, features strong influences from the original Stingray race car introduced in 1959.

But Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper says there is little momentum toward building a production version of the 2-seater for now.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. unveiled a more powerful '10 Acura TSX, powered for the first time by a V-6.

The sports sedan, which hits dealerships this summer, will offer a 3.5L V-6 producing 280 hp and featuring VTEC valvetrain control and a dual-stage induction system.

For the diehard enthusiasts, Hyundai displayed the Genesis Coupe's R-Spec track version, aimed at the tuner crowd.

The standard Genesis Coupe is on sale now, priced at $22,000 with a 210-hp, turbocharged 2.0L, 4-cyl. engine. A more upscale V-6 model stickers at $25,000.
Steve Finlay and Byron Pope