Detroit Auto Show preview

Will Powell

You know things have changed in the car industry when a company like Ford launches one of its biggest European models - the new Focus - here in America.

I'm in Detroit, it's the night before the annual motor show, and the buzz is that Ford will give the all-new version of Britain's most popular family hatchback its world premiere here on Monday.

It makes sense too. Ford's recession-busting strategy revolves around globalising its products – meaning that it wants to sell some of the same models in America as it does so successfully in Europe. And bringing the Focus and the Fiesta Stateside is just phase one.

But it's not as though we Brits should expect F150 Lightning trucks down at Dagenham Motors in return. No, no, no - this is an American-only culture shift that's been prompted by the financial squeeze many households here are reportedly feeling. By launching the new Focus in Detroit, Ford is saying it thinks Americans want to downsize their cars to smaller, cheaper-to-run models.

The big question is: do they really? The minute you step out of the airport here, it's the XXL proportions of the vehicles you notice first. They love 'em big and brash and spacious, with crap suspension. The Obama administration would love to see car choices here change, but only time will tell if everyday Americans will be tantalised by efficient, small European hatchbacks. After all, despite reaching record highs, gas prices have subsided in recent months meaning Average Joe can afford to drive his V8 pick-up again...