You know things have changed in the motor industry when Ford launches a major European model like the new Focus in America.

Monday's opening press conference in Detroit combined the not inconsiderable charisma of CEO Alan Mulally with a flashy and upbeat stage show that conveyed one clear message: optimism. It also unveiled the third generation of the ever-popular Focus family hatchback (and complementary sedan for the traditionalists), a car that seems more important to the brand now than ever before.

Ford's press conference spelled out its single-minded, recession-busting strategy that's giving the whole brand direction. It's called One Ford and it means taking successful and efficient European cars like the new Focus, Fiesta and the next Mondeo, and selling them worldwide. Yesterday's unveiling of a prettier and more premium Focus is vital because Ford believes its US customers will want to downsize en masse over the next three years.

Although it sits on an all-new platform, the new Focus looks like an evolution of the old model that's cuter at the front and neater at the rear, with more texture in the panels, a sleeker profile and eye-catching wraparound taillights. Inside there's an array of soft-touch furnishings, neatly integrated switchgear and a trick selection of screens featuring a new and nifty MyFord multimedia system. It's more upmarket than ever and we're told this high-end specification will translate to European models, due on sale during the first quarter of 2011.

Mulally revealed that ten global C-segment models will spin-off the new Focus platform and that an electric version will be built in Michigan, giving the assembled Ford employees plenty of reasons to whoop with optimism. In all, the Blue Oval perfectly judged the balance between positivity and cockiness here, and the Focus stole the show.  

And the rest

Not that it had much competition from its US counterparts. Chrysler's stand seemed hurriedly integrated with Fiat's, but there was early evidence of synergy between the two newly united brands in the form of the Chrysler Delta Concept - effectively a Lancia Delta with Chrysler grille. It's a start, but how a car designed for Milan will fair in Michigan is anyone's guess.

The General Motors area was quiet as a crypt and, depressingly, the biggest GM news of the day came from interviews with its executives, who were quoted as saying that Saab would be "wound-up" in the near future, prompting a flurry of reports that GM never intended to sell the ailing Swedish brand anyway - to Spyker, Ecclestone or anyone else.

Upbeat Europeans

Elsewhere, European manufacturers were more upbeat, even though none unveiled mainstream models here. BMW tantalised by revealing a scorching hot version of the Z4 with a 335bhp straight six under its lengthy bonnet.  Zero to 62mph takes the snappily named Z4 sDrive35i just 4.8 seconds, putting its performance on a par with BMW's M cars.

Volkswagen came up with a sleek hybrid coupe concept that's likely to be called a Jetta and is powered by the VW Group's 1.4 turbo TSI engine combined with a lithium ion battery powered electric motor. It emits just 98g/km of CO2 but can hit 140mph.

Mercedes had a clay silhouette of the next CLS, while Audi previewed the new A8 and Mini launched the Beachcomber concept; an intuitively packaged, funky preview if its upcoming small SUV.

Meanwhile Honda and Toyota took the opportunity of an American motor show to launch two new hybrids - both of which claimed to have 'sporty' driving characteristics. Honda's production-ready CR-Z was the more appealing, reviving the spirit of the CRX with a 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain and decent 2+2 looks. The European version will makes its debut at Geneva, but rumours of an GBP18,000 price tag make it seem a little less plausible compared with rivals.

There was no getting away from it though - Detroit 2010 belonged to Ford. Especially when Mulally announced that, in every division of its business around the world, the Blue Oval has been profitable in the last quarter of 2009. For now, it is single-handedly proving that car manufacturers in America have a future - and that gave the whole show cause for optimism.