Motor City Counts on 2010 to Bounce Back

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and more than a dozen congressmen attended the Detroit Auto Show, Monday, to show support for the ailing auto industry.

As auto sales have tanked, it's caused much of the Motor City to careen off the road.

Almost 15 percent of Detroit's workers are out of work-- many for years-- resulting in abandoned neighborhoods, a soaring crime rate and an impoverished population. In recent months, some 35,000 households have gotten their food from a local Detroit food bank-- more families than ever before.

"Food, clothing, shelter, utility assistance, basic human needs that many of us take for granted are really a challenge for a lot of people in the region these days," explained DeWayne Wells of the Gleaners Community Food Bank.

The 2009 economic downturn caused a massive ripple effect for the big three automakers, Chrysler, GM and Ford.

"The volume declines were unprecedented and with and the fact that there are 3,000 parts in a car means that you affect the suppliers that supply those parts, and the suppliers that help them with materials," analyst Michael Robinet said. "It has a domino effect which is unbelievable."

The Cash for Clunkers program helped some, but sales for most of the car industry returned right away to a downward spiral.

However, that's not keeping automakers from putting on a happy face at the North American International Auto Show. Some are encourage by Ford's sales jumping 33 percent in December.

"Last month was actually better than Cash for Clunkers, so we see momentum moving forward here," Dennis Rikuc, sales manager for Tom Holzer Ford, said.

The future appears to be all about being more fuel-efficient and compact, yet still packed with plenty of hi-tech extras and safety features.

"The U.S. auto industry is not going away. It's getting smarter. it's getting more efficient," said auto industry expert Chris Denove. "It's listening to it's customers and it's beginning to build cars that people want to buy."

But will they? On that, Detroit's fate and future hangs.

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Paul Strand

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As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.