The Detroit auto show kicked off this week with much fanfare and glitz, including a Darius Rucker concert sponsored by Ford and an indoor Jeep test track featuring a 40-degree incline.
However, beneath the exhilaration and bright lights, the annual event has been overshadowed by trepidation and unease. The three major U.S. automakers, the pillars of the show, are engaged in tense contract negotiations with the labor union representing nearly 150,000 of their employees.
Even as the automakers tried to generate excitement around new versions of popular vehicles like the GMC Acadia SUV and Ford F-150 pickup for dealers, analysts and journalists, union negotiators raced to avert a strike by the United Auto Workers that could make it impossible for those fresh models to reach showrooms.
Despite the flashy displays and celebrations, the mood at the Detroit auto show has been clouded by the high-stakes labour talks happening behind the scenes. The negotiations will determine if much-hyped new vehicles can actually be produced and sold amid the possibility of a major work stoppage.