A pint-size Cadillac, a 4x4 cabriolet and a virtual Maybach rickshaw were just some of the more unlikely debutants at 2010’s LA Auto Show, adding more weight to the growing argument that the California show is now the most daring and forward-thinking mainstream US car exhibition.

As the West Coast State is still the biggest sales market in the US, representing a tenth of the total North American market and more than 20 per cent of all hybrid sales, the LA Show is also the most important from a business and environmental perspective.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 'sustainable luxe' was one of the key themes of the show as maker after maker showed smaller, more fuel-efficient but still luxurious concepts and production vehicles. 'Lightweight' was also very much part of this trend even among the bigger high-performance unveils from Porsche and Mercedes – less weight means less fuel and emissions required to move the car.

Fittingly, weight was also the brief to this year’s always-enlightening 'virtual' LA Design Challenge, an annual contest that encourage concept studios to push the boundaries of what a car can be.

All in all, the mood was good, and the 2010 LA Show was a far cry from the crumbling industry of just 2 years ago. Exhibitors were genuinely upbeat and there was innovation, interest and variety on display.