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Retailers, consumers and prices

Auto show-$120 billion blend of richness and optimism


coffee1Optimism and delicious “bailout blend” coffee reigned at the Detroit auto show.

Automakers and officials at the North American International Auto Show struck an optimistic yet cautious tone as they sought to put a toxic year of slumping sales and massive government aid behind.

“This is a new day,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at the annual show. “Today is a new beginning, really.”

Following a disastrous year that saw GM and Chrysler forced into government-led bankruptcy, many executives said 2010 sales should be much better after plunging to 10.4 million units last year, 39 percent below the market’s peak in 2005. The unanswered question, however, is what the U.S. economy will do following its longest, deepest downturn since the 1930s.