Who would have thought the most important car of the 2009 LA Auto Show would be a supermini? Yes, there were smart new Porsches and Cadillacs to see, but the launch of the US-spec Ford Fiesta – a compact but roomy car already on sale in Europe with a well-proven frugality and genuinely fun-to-drive character – was undoubtedly the most important launch on US giant Ford’s stand and arguably the key event of the 2009 LA show.
Why? Because the Fiesta signals a shift in mindset for US carmakers towards their domestic market – and Ford hopes – an openness by US customers toward buying smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Ford wasn’t alone in thinking small. Mazda also chose LA to launch its new Mazda 2 supermini to North American consumers for the first time. It too has been on sale in Europe for some time and both go on sale in the US this summer.
Beyond these significant US debuts, there were seven ‘physical’ global unveils, the most significant of which focused on lightweight – from the stripped-out Porsche Boxster Spyder to the future-facing Honda P-NUT and VW Up! Lite – not forgetting the ‘virtual’ LA Design Challenge which threw up half a dozen great computer-generated visions of what the youth of 2030 might want to drive.

All in all, the 2009 LA Show was much better than 2008’s – an event completely overshadowed by the major US carmakers desperate pleading with Washington for a slice of a $25bn Government bail-out. LA really seems to be gaining ground on its rival show in Detroit and one day it may even usurp the event in the famous Motor City as the most important North American motorshow.