Blown Cover

When Sergio Marchionne held only the CEO position at Fiat Auto SpA, he could tour the North American International Auto Show unnoticed. And he did.

One journalist even asked him this week if he’d ever attended the Detroit event before. “Religiously,” Marchionne answered.

In 2007, while his counterparts at other auto makers dodged packs of inquisitive journalists, Ward’s found Marchionne strolling the show floor alone.

Fast-forward to 2010. Having added the CEO title at Chrysler Group, Marchionne now draws crowds any rock star would envy.

Check Your Egos at the Door

The suits at Ford are trying valiantly to keep their egos in check after the auto maker sweeps this year’s North American Car and Truck of the Year prizes with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford Transit Connect.

General Motors captured both awards in 2007 with the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Silverado “and look where they are,” a Ford insider intones.

“Former” is the operative word as the bad old GM has been succeeded post-bankruptcy by the new and improved GM.

There certainly is no smugness among Ford’s electric-vehicle developers. A plugged-in auto show observer tells Ward’s they’ve been “all over” a Nissan Leaf displayed with the collection of other EVs on the show’s “Electric Avenue.”

Ford plans to introduce an electric Transit Connect this year, followed by a Focus EV in 2011.

What’s Up With That?

Chrysler Group’s show display features a Ram Heavy Duty pickup suspended, upside-down, from the ceiling.

Insiders say it’s their way of suggesting the redesigned-for-’10 truck – winner of numerous awards – is turning the segment on its head.

The feat is made possible using roller-coaster technology. The truck is supported by tubular heavy-stress steel and a truss so strong it can withstand earthquakes.

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Chrysler also teases with a “design study” based on the elegant Lancia Delta C-segment hatchback.

The auto maker sees definite synergy between the Chrysler marque and Fiat’s premium brand, so it decided to outfit a Delta accordingly. The only problem: acquiring a Delta in short order.

Enter Chrysler brand chief Olivier Francois, who also is CEO of Fiat’s Lancia division. He volunteers his company ride for the transformation.

“I never even drove it,” he tells Ward’s.

The winged Chrysler badge and a 300-esque grille adorn the taupe-colored Delta. But the auto maker is decidedly non-committal about production possibilities.