The big three U.S. automotive-giants are finally getting some good publicity after months of bad news. The annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit has been the source of much excitement in the auto industry, as automakers unveiled their future lineup of cars. Among the stars of the show were new electric cars slated to hit the market later this year. The event showed how important energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly cars are to the rapidly evolving automotive industry. Electric cars are the right investment for automakers, Michigan and the environment, and the industry should focus on improving these in-demand designs.

The Auto Show is making headlines as Michigan automakers show off new and exciting advances. And there are good announcements for the state of Michigan as well. Ford Motor Co. plans to build its electric Focus in Wayne County, and around 1,000 jobs are expected to come to Detroit to work on Ford’s electric cars. Chevrolet is showing off the 2010 Volt — a much-anticipated electric car that will contain engines assembled in Flint. The Volt will go on sale late this year. Present at the show were Washington politicians including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), who called the event “historic.”

Michigan emerges as a winner at the Auto Show. While the state has had the highest unemployment rates in the nation since 2006, General Motors Corp., Ford and battery suppliers are expected to finally create jobs. Instead of producing more gas-guzzling SUVs, the Auto Show has exhibited an encouraging surge of hybrid and electric vehicles. Closed Michigan plants that previously built mammoth vehicles are being renovated so they can construct the sorts of environmentally-friendly cars that will likely dominate the auto market in the future. For automakers often criticized for their financial problems and poor decisions, these uplifting developments are a welcome change — no matter how late they are .

And while the projects unveiled at the Auto Show don’t indicate the immediate resurrection of Michigan automakers, they show important progress for a group that has frequently lagged behind the move toward green technology. Automakers seem to be finally realizing that they need to build cars that appeal to the modern consumer — and the day of the gas-guzzler is over. The only way for auto companies to restore themselves is to emerge on the forefront of this technology. And as the auto companies start to improve, so will the state’s economy.

Electric and hybrid cars are also a boon for the environment, decreasing the use of oil as a fuel source. According to Greenpeace, 30 percent of Michigan’s greenhouse gas emissions result from transportation. While electric cars rely on electricity that is often generated from fossil fuels today, they can put a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions if fossil fuel power plants are increasingly replaced with greener alternatives like solar and wind energy.

Though this year’s Auto Show has showcased some impressive technology, if Michigan automakers are to get back on their feet then they’ll have to do more than just capitalize on flash and good press. Automakers should invest heavily in the green, fuel-efficient cars that Americans and the rest of the world want, and make the concept cars at the Auto Show a reality.

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