DETROIT — Scott Heim stood back and watched as his son and the young man’s friends rushed from car to car, chattering about design and snapping photos.
“These guys love it,” Mr. Heim said. “They’re car junkies.”
For the similarly minded, it doesn’t get much better than the North American International Auto show.
The public show opened Saturday, and Mr. Heim made his annual pilgrimage from Maumee with his 18-year-old son, Trevor, and three of his son’s friends.
Citing the auto industry’s recent successes, show promoters had promised a bigger, louder, and more confident show in 2013. If the rest of the show goes anything like the first day, they weren’t exaggerating.
Huge crowds packed the Cobo Center, giving the show a buzz not seen in recent years, and certainly not seen during the auto industry’s recession-induced nadir.
“It’s great to see people back out at car shows again,” Mr. Heim said. “We lived through the 2009, 2010 era where it was a little rough. It’s exciting. It is very busy.”
Among the cars Trevor Heim most anticipated seeing was the Scion FR-S, a moderately priced, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe. He likes its styling and the way it can be customized. He also is pragmatic.
“They’re more realistic than one of these,” he said, gesturing to a row of Bentleys.
Yes, Detroit is a show for both dreamers and realists. Not too far from the Volkswagen Passat are Jaguars, Porsches, and Maseratis.
Even Ferarri got back into the Motor City show, making its first appearance since 2009. And while the two Ferraris on display drew a good crowd, the ultrapremium Italian brand’s famous black-and-yellow prancing horse logo isn’t enough to win over everyone.
“That thing’s butt ugly,” remarked one fellow who just took a look at the Ferrari FF, a four-seat sports car that costs about $300,000.
To each his own.
Perhaps the show’s most popular car was the completely redesigned 2014 Corvette, first unveiled last week.
After loading up the media preview with several Corvettes new and old, Chevrolet left just one 2014 model on the show floor Saturday. A circle of people crowded around it, hoisting smart phones to snap photos and waiting to get a closer look at the impressive sports car.
So popular was the Corvette that a 580-horsepower 2013 Camaro ZL1 gleaming nearby in dandelion yellow hardly turned a head. Everyone wanted to see the ’Vette.
“The new Corvette will be probably be the highlight of the show for us,” said Kevin O’Brien, a Marion, Ohio, resident who is studying for his second degree at Bowling Green State University and has been coming to the auto show with friend Brian Schwartz of Huron for about 15 years.
“It seems to be better than last year,” Mr. O’Brien said. “The ride in, I’ve never seen the back-up of cars. It was ridiculous. There must be something going on, a renewed interest or better marketing. Because there’s more people here than I’ve seen.”
Show organizers said they were expecting larger crowds than the 735,000 people who attended last year.
First time show-goers Roy Edwards and Ashley Huffman said they were impressed.
Mr. Edwards praised BMW’s display, and was on his way to see what Jeep had brought. A big fan of the brand and grandson of a Toledo Jeep worker, Mr. Edwards said he drives a 2001 Wrangler.
“I just like them,” he said. “The reliability, the overall style, the ruggedness. You can’t go wrong with the Wrangler.”
Jeep had several Wranglers on the show floor, including a concept “Year of the Dragon” special edition and a 10th anniversary Rubicon.
For Ms. Huffman, Volkswagen was most impressive. The German automaker’s display featured dancers twirling below three large disco balls. On the automotive side, Volkswagen had its normal lineup, plus a plug-in hybrid concept vehicle called the CrossBlue and a shimmering red model of its CrossCoupe concept.
Another concept that drew lots of attention was the Acura NSX. The company unveiled an early concept in Detroit last year, and brought a refreshed version to the show this year. Eventually it will be built at a plant in Ohio.
Cool as the Japanese super-car is, though, the Corvette won over the Detroit crowd.
“I love the new Corvette Stingray,” said Sarah Przybylski of Petersburg, Mich.
The show runs through Jan. 27.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: email@example.com or 419-724-6134.