Surprise debuts, big reveals take the spotlight at Detroit auto show

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DETROIT -- Often dubbed the automotive equivalent of the Super Bowl, the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicked into high gear Monday as members of the press descended on Cobo Center.

With more than 700 vehicles on display, with more than 5,000 journalists attending the press days, the show got off to a bang with big model auto announcements and even bigger surprises.

Auto industry insider Nik Miles says one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 show has been the new models announced by General Motors.

General Motors kicked things off late Sunday night when the automaker pulled the wraps off the Cascada convertible from Buick. The drop top marks the brand's first convertible in more than 25 years, which is slated to hit showrooms in 2016.

Buick also unveiled the Avenir concept car.

Elsewhere, Chevrolet made waves with a new electric Bolt EV concept. The automaker says the car is designed to travel up to 200 miles on a single charge, far surpassing the Chevrolet Volt. But above all, Chevy says, the car would be priced around $30,000 if it comes to market within the next two years. GM officials wouldn't commit to saying whether the car would be produced.

Ford surprised reporters with the announcement of a new 'Halo' super car, a successor to the company's limited run Ford GT from 2003.

The 600+ horsepower mid-engine vehicle runs on a twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 and is slated to go into production by 2016.

“There are spies everywhere, and the industrial espionage that goes on with these guys trying to keep secrets," Miles said. "This year is kind of different. "There’s a lot of surprises this year. People kept things under wraps until the very last minute. Usually I can get a sense, a whiff. This year, a lot of surprises.”

While big horsepower continues to be a big story, what's underneath the hood is often outshined by some of the technology on display at the show.

For 2015, NAIAS is featuring its first ever Technology Showcase to highlight the continued and growing integration of technology in automobiles and design.

“You remember when we used to watch Star Trek and they had that one little device they could do everything with, well that’s your iPhone, that’s reality," said Marques McCammon, of Wind River, which designs in-car connectivity software. "All these things we thought about cars driving themselves and so on, that’s reality too. The same technology enabling our smartphones is enabling things with our cars.”

Also featured in the showcase is 3D printed cars, proving that a vehicle doesn't have to be welded together or produced on an assembly line to become a reality.

“You start with a digital model, that allows you to go from a 3D model to making it and printing it layer by layer," said Lonnie Love of Oakridge National Laboratory.

With more alternative power vehicles on display and a slew of available features from automakerssuch self-parking and phone connectivity, the innovations continue to prove that ideas of tomorrow might not actually be that far in the future.

“We’ve come as far as we did in the first 60 years just in the last 10 years," said Miles. "It's so fast."

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