Detroit is back!

Sales in 2014 were the auto industry’s best in nearly a decade, with almost 1 million more vehicles sold in the U.S. last year than in 2013. Automakers sold an impressive 16.5 million vehicles overall, helped by readily available credit, a strengthening economy, low levels of unemployment and a continued decline in gas prices. That marked the fifth consecutive year of increases, after auto sales hit a low of 10.4 million in 2009.

The sales gains add crucial momentum ahead of the Detroit auto show, among the most closely watched events in the industry and a barometer for what’s to come. It’s expected that manufacturers will introduce 40 new car and truck models this year – with plenty of automakers promising surprises at the show, too.

A brief overview of what to look for in the Motor City next week:

Re-tooled trucks:

Truck sales are up 10 percent from last year, thanks mostly to the recovering housing market and low gas prices. At the 2014 show, Ford debuted the aluminum F-150 that just started hitting showrooms. This year, Toyota will debut a redesigned Tacoma pick-up, Nissan will unveil a redesigned Titan and Ram will show a refreshed 1500.

Toyota Tacoma’s owners have waited a long time for a new version of the vehicle, as it’s been a decade since the current generation was introduced. Tacoma sales were down 3 percent in 2014 versus the previous year. The small truck market is poised for robust growth in 2015 and the loyal Tacoma buyers are likely to line up for the redesigned version.

The Nissan Titan has also not been updated since the 2004 model year. A first-ever diesel variant will be offered. It will be designed in California, engineered in Michigan, tested in Arizona and assembled in Canton, Mississippi. (How’s that for “Made in the U.S.A.”?) The Titan competes with the newly redesigned Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, and Toyota Tundra. The new truck couldn’t come at a better time; Titan sales were down 20.2 percent last year compared to the previous year.

Emphasis on fuel efficiency, even with gas under $2 a gallon:

Despite the recent dramatic drop in gas prices, automakers continue to focus on a more fuel-efficient future with numerous eco-friendly vehicle debuts.

The original electric-hybrid Chevrolet Volt was introduced in 2007 and the second generation was just revealed at a press event at CES in Las Vegas. The Volt will use a new 1.5-liter gasoline engine, won’t require premium fuel, and will have a bigger battery, which will equal greater range, more than the current estimated 38 miles.

Hyundai and Kia plan to unveil seven new hybrids and six new plug-in hybrids during the next five years, starting with the Hyundai Sonata hybrid and plug-in versions. Sales of the Sonata were up 7 percent last year in a fiercely competitive segment.

Mercedes-Benz C350 plug-in hybrid will have its debut; it will feature two distinct means that can run separate or together in order to achieve the best fuel economy. The combined fuel economy is expected to sit at 112 mpg.

The Acura NSX will have its official debut and will go on sale this year. It’s Honda’s most advanced and expensive vehicle ever released, it’s a plug-in hybrid, high-performance sports car that could be the BMW i8’s competitor. The vehicle will be built by hand by about 100 employees in Marysville, Ohio – keeping with the made-in-America theme.

Performance pack:

Lexus will expand its F model sedan at the show and plans to introduce two new performance models. The F model is Lexus’s response to the Mercedes-Benz AMG and BMW’s M line. Lexus is going all out to compete for sales in the prestigious luxury performance vehicle segment.

Mercedes-Benz will introduce the AMG Sport line, which is a less expensive version of its AMG high-performance series. The GLE 450 AMG Sport and the C450 AMG Sport will debut at the show. The AMG Sport line delivers relatively lower performance numbers, but at a more manageable price point for many buyers.

adapted from by Jesse Toprak

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG Sport coupe