Detroit's auto company executives are putting on a good face at the North American International Auto Show, which opened to the press on Sunday, but the year ahead could be tough, a Dow Jones Newswires report said.

Car makers hope to spur sales with the introduction of dozens of new vehicle models in 2005, continuing last year's trend toward what Ford terms "more new models faster", the report added.

According to Dow Jones, on the opening press day, auto companies at Detroit's COBO Centre courted thousands of journalists from around the world with a look at new cars. They range from the practical Ford Fusion, a mid-size passenger car to be introduced this autumn to compete with the likes of the Toyota Camry, to General Motors' Sequel, a sport utility vehicle that runs on hydrogen fuel. The Sequel, which GM's chief executive Rick Wagoner called GM's "moonshot," is a drivable car now, and could go into production at the end of the decade, the company reportedly said.

The auto companies emphasized technology, both to lower fuel consumption and make driving more fun, Dow Jones said, noting that US auto makers face an uphill battle as there's too much capacity in the North American industry.

Noting that the Detroit Big Three began easing off incentives towards the end of the year - as their Asian rivals stepped up the pace - Dow Jones said both GM and Ford are expected to report that sales and earnings dropped in the fourth quarter. DaimlerChrysler's results, due in February, are likely to show quarterly gains, reflecting successful new cars introduced in 2004. All three companies are profitable, thanks mainly to their finance businesses.

Analysts told Dow Jones they expect North American vehicle sales in 2005 to be about flat with 2004. Even though the economy is growing, they reportedly say US shoppers may have become sated with good deals on cars.