2008 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show

(scroll to end for  a photo gallery of cars on display)

Big, mean and green.

That could either refer to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who addressed the show Thursday, or any number of hulking SUVs outfitted with hybrids that were unquestionably the stars of the 101st  Greater Los Angeles Auto Show opening to the public today at Staples Center downtown.

GM took top green honors for its Chevy Tahoe Hybrid that wowed the crowds almost as much as the 2008 Lambo Reventon, unveiled in Frankfurt,  with the Tahoe's environmentally friendly credentials and its release heralding the future of domestic automotive production.

So the green prize is always awarded in LA, courtesy of our fair state's push toward environmentally conscience motoring in an age where bigger cars tend to leave, yes, smaller  carbon footprints.

Other green notables on display included a hybrid Chevrolet Silverado, plug-in variants from Toyota and Honda  and a whopping BMW 7-Series packing hydrogen power. So what's new?  Porsche also unveiled its model of a 108-year-old electric car designed by Ferdinand Porsche. Yowzer.

Green belts aside, show standouts included a FJ Cruiser convertible, a spanking Maserati, the new Mercedes C-class and  a Volkswagen Slipstream as the show's coveted Design Challenge award-winner.

Seriously worth a look, and a great reason for paying your $10 entry fee over the next  week, are said Lambo, the Italian rival to the fantastic $1.2 million Bugatti Veyron unveiled last year,  which boasts 650 horsepower and typically drop-dead curves, yours for just $1.4 million. Does anyone else remember when Lambos cost $100,000? Hmm, wag those Euros, Jay-Z.

Also standing tall are  Hyundai's  300 horsepower Genesis coupe concept, Audi's convertible Quattro Coupe, alongside debuts Aston Martin's V8 Vantage N400,  BMW's M3, and Ferrari's 430 Scuderia.

Schwarzenegger pushed the green theme, perhaps more in step with the automotive industry   on top of his campaign to legislate on California fuel emissions and, if need be, hold the major carmakers accountable by way of lawsuits.

"It is fantastic to see that the world's automakers are developing the technology to help us meet our goals in California," the governor said.

"These cars come in every size and shape and they prove that we can give consumers the choices they want and still protect the environment."

I heard him. I'd rocked up to the show in Ford's latest hybrid Escape, which banged out pretty mean acceleration on the 110 Freeway up to the show with the foot down. Oops, shouldn't do that.  OK, soft-pedalling, the Escape will wring out 30 and 28 MPG city and highway respectively.

If you keep a super-keen eye over the next ten days or so, you might see Ford's Alan Mullally, or Nissan wunderkind Carlos Ghosn,  or any number of industry bigwigs that, with any luck,  may be able to address all those nagging concerns you have about the state of the US auto industry going forward.

As a result of Detroit concerns about the LA Auto Show impinging on its turf, the show arrived in LA two weeks earlier this year than last. Did Christmas come early to the Southland? You bet it did.



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