U.S. auto executives attributed the subdued mood to a less-than-rosy industry outlook and tighter budgets.
"The entire industry is in transition and contemplative," said John Smith, General Motors Corp. vice president of global product planning.
Imports executives said they are re-evaluating which U.S. venue is best for their vehicles -- the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which draws the most reporters, or auto shows in Los Angeles and New York, which draw more potential buyers.
"There's a lot of discussion about this, especially as we all have to save money and target our investment," said Stefan Krause, BMW AG board member in charge of sales. "We noticed that a few companies didn't come, a few of our competitors didn't have press conferences."
Detroit organizers said they haven't seen a decline in the number of vehicle introductions. More than 50 production and concept vehicles made their world or North American debut in Detroit this year, compared with more than 40 at the 2007 Los Angeles show, organizers said.