Two months ago, it was far from clear whether Detroit's Big 3 carmakers would even exist by the time their hometown auto show rolled around. Thanks to government funds they made it—and as a result, much of the Detroit show seemed to be a performance for Washington; an elaborate sales pitch for the continued relevance and potential solvency of the American auto industry. Hybrids, plug-ins, and pure electric cars, both real and vaporous, were central to that pitch. Meanwhile, Nissan, Infiniti, Porsche and Ferrari skipped town, and boutique electric-car makers Fisker and Tesla and the Chinese automakers BYD and Brilliance staked out sizable plots on the main showroom floor. Here's a selection of highlights.