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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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If there’s one word that describes tomorrow’s cars, it’s green.

At the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, few automakers showed vehicles without an electric motor of some kind stashed under the hood.

Here are some trends evident at this year’s big show:

•Micro cars: Cars get smaller

In a bid to meet forthcoming fuel-economy. regulations, Chevrolet showed its petite Spark minicar. But luxury nameplates have downsized, too. Lincoln showed the Model C hatchback and Mercedes-Benz unveiled the BlueZERO. Only Mini, with its new Cooper convertible, grew larger.

•Electrifying: Hybrid choices multiply.

Electric motors assist the gas engines that power the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Lexus HS250h, Audi Q5, Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. Cadillac, Chrysler, Fisker, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota unveiled hybrids that use an electric motor and battery to power the car; the gas engine recharges the battery.

•Chipping in: Your car goes online.

Ford showed its new Work Solutions package, which uses Windows CE software to wirelessly connect your truck to the office, the Internet or a printer. The company also showed a reconfigurable digital instrument cluster on the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrid sedans.

•New is old: The return of electric cars.

The newest trend in automobiles is perhaps its oldest. In the early 20th century, electric cars were popular. Their big drawback then continues today: a lack of range. Still, cars such as the Chrysler 200C and Dodge Circuit suggest that gas engines are living on borrowed time.

•Going topless: Sports cars live.

The allure of a sports car is eternal. That’s why BMW unveiled its new Z4 hardtop convertible, Audi revealed a 525-horsepower R8, and Jaguar showed its 510-horsepower XKR and XFR. But Volkswagen was different: Its Concept BlueSport has a diesel engine that returns 50 mpg in highway driving.

•Luxury endures: Recession? What recession?

The rich are different from the rest of us: They have money (Bernard Madoff clients excluded). Mercedes-Benz revealed a new E-Class sedan, while the Audi Sportback previewed the A7, and Volvo showed the new S60. But Bentley is still living large with its 600-horsepower Continental GTC Speed.


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