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With economic pundits declaring that Michigan is in the grip of a single-state recession, you could be excused for feeling glum. But as we come to the end of the year, Detroit's Big Three automakers are giving us reason to cheer going into 2008.

The reason is simple. The cars and trucks introduced in the last year and those about to enter showrooms are the best we've seen in a long time. Though Motown's Big Three have given us a few false starts in recent years -- remember Ford's ill-founded "Year of the Car" proclamation back in 2004 -- this time around the companies' product line-ups contain some real gems.

Host of new models to debut

The right stuff is to be found not just in a fresh breed of smaller trucks and crossovers, but also in the new cars, a side of the business Detroit had all but ceded to the Asian brands a few years ago.

In terms of trucks or crossovers, I would highlight the following models among the Big Three's current or forthcoming contenders: the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Saturn Vue, Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. All of these are excellent vehicles, fully the measure of their rivals.
Two special mentions should go to Chrysler's new minivan, which raises the bar in a still-important market sector, and the four-door Jeep Wrangler, which with good reason has been a runway success for that brand.

And for those who want larger trucks with notably better fuel economy than previously offered, advanced hybrid full-size trucks -- a segment the Japanese automakers have yet to tackle -- are also on the way from General Motors (Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and Silverado, plus GMC siblings) and Chrysler (Aspen and Dodge Durango) in 2008.

How frugal can these trucks be? GM says that the hybrid Silverado returns up to 21 miles per gallon, on par with a Toyota Camry sedan.
For car fans, there are several new models that promise to put Detroit back on the map. Cadillac's outstanding new CTS sedan is already in showrooms and justifiably winning widespread acclaim. Even more important from a production volume point of view for GM is the new

Chevrolet Malibu, which shares mechanicals with the well-received Saturn Aura but comes with its own distinctive look. The Malibu's driving qualities, fit and finish, equipment levels and pricing make it Detroit's first truly competitive and serious contender in the midsize sedan market since the original Ford Taurus (although Ford's current Fusion sedan has much to recommend it).

The Motown product wave continues through 2008 calendar year with a host of other potentially promising newcomers, such as the Ford Flex and F-series, the Pontiac G8 and Vibe, Saturn's Astra, the Chevrolet Traverse and Corvette ZR1, the Dodge Ram, Journey and Charger. And the list goes on.

Motown future looks bright

So assuming you still have a job, and your house is not being repossessed, there are still reasons to believe in the future of Michigan. After years of floundering, Detroit's automakers are finally scoring some real hits and that can only be good news for the state's economy

Big 3 get it right with new vehicles
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