Mazda Spoils GM Sweep

There were a few glum faces among GM suits today as the Mazda CX-9 cross/utility vehicle officially was named North American truck of the year by journalists from the U.S. and Canada.

The CX-9 beats out the popular Buick Enclave and innovative 2-mode Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, spoiling what would have been a GM awards sweep for the second year in a row.

There still was some good news for the Chevy division, as its highly praised next-generation Malibu got the nod as North American car of the year over the Cadillac CTS and Honda Accord.

Separation Anxiety?

When Chrysler Chairman Bob Nardelli shook hands with his Daimler counterpart Dieter Zetsche at NAIAS’s press preview this morning, the warmth of their greeting belied the chilly temperatures outside.

Although the two executives smiled and exchanged cordial words, the atmosphere was somewhat icy on the show floor.

That’s because, historically, Chrysler and Mercedes brands have been located across from one another. This year, they are separated by "luxury row" featuring such premium marques as Maserati, Ferrari and Bentley. Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce stands now face Mercedes.

"It's better than looking at the (Chrysler) Town & Country (minivan)," quips a Mercedes insider.

A NAIAS spokesman swears the auto makers’ recent divorce had noting to do with the new floorplan.

Cattle Bullish on Dodge Ram

To dramatize the ruggedness of its redesigned-for-'09 Dodge Ram pickup, Chrysler herded 120 long-horned steers down the street in front of the auto show’s press preview at Cobo Hall.

Cowboys on horseback held the cattle back as Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press stood before three shiny Ram pickups to describe the new model's attributes.

Suddenly, one steer's head rose above the herd. In a fit of passion, he had mounted a fellow steer. To wild laughter, Press tells the media: "He just wanted to see the truck."

Got Sauce?

Chrysler’s cattle stampede stunt down Woodard Avenue to Cobo Hall caused Ford of Europe President and CEO Lewis Booth to quip: “I wouldn't be surprised if they were killed, barbequed and eaten before they get here.”

Not Easy Being Green

General Motors’ announcement that it’s partnering with a Chicago firm to produce next-generation ethanol prompted reporters to ask if the auto maker plans to expand its corporate reach into biofuels.

"We’re a transportation company,” GM chief Rick Wagoner says. “At this point, there are no plans to be a big generator of energy.”

But when queried about GM's role in building a distribution network for the ethanol, Wagoner admits: "We've been doing more than I thought we would need to."

Image Deflated

The Michelin Man…isn't.

The iconic costumed character seen at automotive events around the world was spotted this morning in the ladies' room.

– compiled by Barbara McClellan