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Detroit Auto Show Will Emphasize Electric Vehicle Technology

DETROIT - The auto industry's commitment to alternative fuel vehicles will be put to the test in the next two weeks, as more than a half-million visitors come to peer at the new technologies at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

One key for the giant exhibition, traditionally a showplace for production vehicles, is the addition of a 37,000-sq-ft display area called Electric Avenue. The new area will serve as an expo for 12 manufacturers of electric vehicles, ranging from traditional automakers, such as Nissan and Mitsubishi, to entrepreneurial firms, such as SSI Racing and Saba Motors. Electric Avenue will be sponsored by Dow Chemical Co., which is involved in the development of electric vehicle battery technology.

"It's an excellent venue for the public to see some of the vehicles that you don't normally hear about," noted Bill Perkins, president of Detroit Auto Dealers Assn. (DADA).

Electric Avenue will be complemented this year by a display area known as EcoXperience, which will provide visitors with a look at the battery and electric motor technology that's making its way into the auto industry. True to its name, the giant EcoXperience display will provide visitors with an outdoor-type encounter, complete with 200 transplanted pine trees, 600 evergreens, 5,000 tulips and daffodils and 650,000 pounds of stone paving. The stone paving will serve as a roadway for visitors, who will be able to test drive electric vehicles on it.

"The area is totally landscaped," Perkins said. "It's like you're in a flower garden, taking a ride in your electric car."

The show will include product demonstrations from 60 exhibitors in all. All the industry's biggest automakers, including Toyota, General Motors and Ford, will be represented.  

The Detroit-based exhibition, considered the granddaddy of auto shows, will be open to approximately 6,000 journalists this week. On Saturday, Jan. 16, a day after an annual black tie charity event, it will open its doors to the general public. More than 600,000 visitors are expected to attend.      

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