Hardest hit of all the Detroit Three, and with a US$4bn federal loan just banked, Chrysler's Detroit Show presence was distinctly low-key, a long way from last year when the new Dodge Ram truck was launched with the 'help' - and the odd bit of embarrassing behaviour - of a herd of cattle outside the Cobo Hall.

In a perhaps ill-advised reference to this event, Chrysler sales chief Jim Press joked that the cows hadn't returned this year as they'd been summoned by the "cow czar" in Washington, who wanted to check that they'd travelled to Detroit in low-cost trucks.

This reference to the US Senate's complaints about Big Three executives travelling to their initial Congressional hearing in Washington by private jet may have raised a chuckle from the assembled auto industry media, though it probably didn't go down quite so well with the politicians on Capitol Hill.

And with Chrysler still hoping for another $7bn from Uncle Sam, Press's widely-reported little joke could backfire on him and the company.

Any further bailout is dependent on Chrysler coming up with a plan to cut costs - and Press said that was well under way.

"We took out 250,000 units of production that was aimed at fleets, and that has improved residuals; dealer inventories have been cut and four model lines have been eliminated."

In their place will come new electric vehicles developed by Chrysler's ENVI environmental projects division.

Several of these were unveiled in Detroit, including the Dodge Circuit electric coupe, based on the Lotus Europa platform, as well as a Jeep Patriot EV and the 200C, a mid-size Chrysler EV sedan.

More cuts are to follow, reducing output and workforce.

"We learned a hell of a lot in 2008," Press said.

Referring to that initial $4bn of US taxpayers' money, Press closed his presentation with this memorable line.

"We now have a special bond with the American public."