Detroit Auto Show: Wee Rides that Puff Themselves Up

Small cars—wave of the future or grim throwback to the gaslines of the 1970s, just with cooler exteriors and cupholders? Plenty of lip service was paid to the treehugger obsessions of Generation fortwo at the Detroit Auto Show's Michelin Design Challenge. The brief? Create designs that are rinkydink, don't chug fuel, and won't kill anybody. Legions of dewy young designers (and presumably a few not so dewy ones who have always burned to create a teensy set of wheels) rose to the challenge and submitted to review over two days at Art Center College of Design. A few aspirants were perhaps excessively inspired by Bibendum's spongy girth and—focusing on the always tricky prospect of preventing people from being mangled in small-vehicle collisions with much larger vehicles—added airbags to the outside of their concepts. Heck, if it worked for Russian space capsules hurtling to hard landings, why not micromobiles? Everything returns to normal in 2009, when the shrunk stuff goes away, the airbags go back inside, and patriotism is restored by the theme "Brave and Bold: America's Next Iconic Vehicle." Eff-yeah!!!