More stories related to 2005 NAIAS Sure, the U.S. passenger-car market is sluggish. If it weren’t for hot-selling cross/utility vehicles (CUVs), auto makers would be in a world of hurt.

However, this year’s North American International Auto Show, which opens to the media in Detroit Jan. 9, proves auto makers have not given up on the notion of the American car. The bevy of new sports coupes, family and luxury sedans and even a few exotic concepts set to bow at this year’s Detroit show marks a concerted effort by the industry to steer buyers in a different direction.

Ford Motor Co. will unveil its new Fusion midsize sedan, which forms a 1-2 punch alongside the new Five Hundred in replacing the Taurus. Based on Mazda6 architecture, the Fusion will court a younger, performance-oriented buyer who may not need the cargo and passenger room of the bigger Five Hundred.

Sketch of Mazda6-based Fusion.

The Fusion will bow alongside its Lincoln platform mate, the Zephyr, and the Ford Freestyle-based Mercury Meta One CUV, meant to be a technology showcase and a glimpse of a future Mercury set for ’07.

Also from the bread-and-butter department comes Toyota Motor Corp.’s new ’05 Avalon fullsize sedan, set to go on sale in February, and Kia Motors Corp.’s all-new 4-door Rio compact.

Despite a resurgence of cars on the NAIAS stage, CUVs won’t be upstaged. Toyota will unveil a new crossover concept, as will American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s Acura luxury division. The Acura RD-X concept is the basis for an entry-level CUV intended to launch in 2006, slotted below the current MDX CUV. The new CUV will be built at Honda’s Marysville, OH, manufacturing plant. Honda also will give the public its first look at its Ridgeline 4-door sport-utility/pickup.

Mazda Motor Corp. will debut its Mazda6-derived MX-Crossport design concept, which represents a new direction Mazda is considering as part of an expanded North American lineup. The MX-Crossport illustrates the blurring of the line between CUV and SUV.

American Suzuki Motor Corp. will present its V-6-powered Concept X, which looks like a CUV but is labeled a midsize SUV by Suzuki.

Kia unveils the rugged, body-on-frame KCD-II SUV, the second concept vehicle to be designed by Kia’s California design center.

Speaking of rugged, the Chrysler Group’s turbodiesel Jeep Gladiator concept harkens back to the 1960s, when the production Gladiator pickup roamed the nation’s back roads and highways. Its military green paint job and boxy design are true to Jeep’s heritage.

Dodge will debut its much-anticipated Charger sedan, the latest model based on the LX rear-drive platform used for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. Unlike the Chargers of old, this one has four doors instead of two.

Ford will show its next-generation Explorer Sport Trac sport-utility pickup in concept form with street-rod cues that include 21-in. wheels and a 2-tone interior. In addition, rumors suggest Ford may be planning to unveil the ’06 Explorer, which gets more power and a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Nissan North America Inc.’s Infiniti luxury division will show its Kuraza concept that emphasizes SUV interior design.

Infiniti also will unveil production versions of its ’06 M45, powered by a 4.5L V-8, and M35, powered by a 3.5L V-6. The sport sedans go on sale in March.

Auto makers on the other side of the Atlantic will try to steal the spotlight with their own newbies, including Audi AG’s A3 5-door Sportback, which finally gives the German auto maker a true entry-level product.

Mercedes-Benz will take the wraps off its new ’06 M-Class, which marks the first ground-up redesign of the SUV since its debut in ’98.

BMW AG will provide a first look at its 5-Series wagon and all-wheel-drive models, while the powerhouse M5 will make its North American debut.

On the decadent, sporty side, Chrysler unveils its 425-hp Firepower coupe concept, derived from the Dodge Viper platform as a “Corvette fighter.”

And General Motors Corp.’s Saturn division finally pumps a little sexiness into its lineup with the Sky 2-seater, a rear-wheel-drive roadster that arrives in showrooms in early 2006. The Sky, as well as the Pontiac Solstice, is derived from GM’s new Kappa architecture. Saturn also will show a midsize concept car.