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LA Motor Show opens quietly

But that is no surprise with the heads of the Big Three carmakers all skipping the event to continue lobbying for a $US25 billion lifeline from congress in Washington.

Ford still splashed with the official introduction of the 2010 Mustang, but Chrysler and General Motors both wound-back their involvement in the second-biggest car show in North America.

That left the way clear for the imports, with Mazda pulling the cover off its all-new Mazda3 - the last car it will develop with Ford as its owner - Nissan revealing its revitalised 370Z and a new Cube, and Honda revealing a radical looking new concept coupe called the FC Sport.

Lexus also has a new RX SUV, which is being simultaneously unveiled in Sydney and will come as both a pure petrol car and a hybrid, Hyundai is showing a Sonata hybrid concept and the plug-in Mini E electric car is making its first public appearance.

The LA show usually draws a crowd of more than one million visitors but the attendance is expected to be well down this year with car sales off by more than 35 per cent in October and America's annual selling rate down by closer to 40 per cent.

Still, cars like the Mustang will still draw a crowd in a city which is one of the most automobile driven in the world and there are plenty of pointers to the future including a growing number of electric cars led by the Mini but including concepts from Chrysler.