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Reporter’s Notebook: Gone With the Wind?

Ward’s writers pass along the buzz at this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Old-School Smack-Talk

Daimler CEO and Chairman Dieter Zetsche reminds that 2011 marks the 125th anniversary of the car, invented by Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz.

“There’s a little piece of Mercedes in every car,” he says, “although, we certainly do not take responsibility for what every other manufacture has done with it.”

Oh Say Can You See

Kia officials are none too happy that Chrysler's mammoth show-floor display here entirely obscures their booth, making it difficult to be located by journalists rushing to an interview (ahem).

Kia sales boss Tom Loveless says the location isn't so bad. Turns out the Korean auto maker is nicely situated near Toyota, an auto maker from which Kia is beginning to steal sales.

Fine Tuning

Daimler lends some refinement to the song “Mercedes Benz.

Made famous in a rough-edged a cappela version by Janis Joplin more than 40 years ago, the auto maker hires the Michigan Opera Theater Orchestra to perform a version before previewing the ’12 Mercedes C-Class for journalists Sunday.

The new C-Class, object of the brand’s most comprehensive facelift, makes its world debut today at the Detroit auto show today.

Gone With the Wind?

Nissan North America exec Carlos Tavares is effusive in his praise of other auto makers venturing into the electric-vehicle market during a speech at the Society of Automotive Analysts dinner before opening day at the auto show.

But it’s still best to be first, he says, noting technology leaders usually get the biggest benefit, a not-so-subtle reminder that the Nissan Leaf EV beat competitors to market.

We know Tavares is speaking about automotive, but we can’t help think of other technology leaders that were usurped by newer, shinier competition. Netscape Navigator comes to mind. Anyone remember Betamax?

A Little Patience

Things might look bleak for American Suzuki. Sales fell again last year, to 23,994 units. Ouch! Officials are upbeat at the show, saying the drop wasn't entirely unexpected as the auto maker transitions away from value-oriented pricing toward higher-end clientele.

But how much longer can the Japanese parent wait for the long-sought turnaround? "They are patient," AMSC President Kevin Saito tells Ward's with a smile.

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