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Hard times in the rear-view mirror, GM dominated Detroit with cars we want to buy

The 2014 Detroit Auto Show had a different feeling than it has in years past. Every year over the last half decade that I’ve attended the show, it’s felt hurried and frantic. This year, though, it felt much calmer, much more controlled.

My colleagues picked up on it, too. As I hurried from press conference to press conference, I witnessed journalists pull one another aside, lean in and ask each other “Why? Why the newfound atmosphere?”

It happened to me several times.

At the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, you could feel the confidence radiating off of General Motors.

Friends and colleagues would greet me, softly grab my arm, pull me in, as if about to share a dark secret, and ask in a hushed tone, “Does this year feel different?”

“Yeah … but why?” I’d whisper back.

“I don’t know. That’s why I am asking you.”

With Digital Trends’ coverage now concluded, I had a moment to think about it. And the calm demeanor of the show boils down to one simple revelation: General Motors is back.

The General

If you didn’t hear, General Motors won both North American Car and Truck of the year awards this year for its Corvette Stingray and Chevrolet Silverado pickup. General Motors has never won both awards at once. So to say it was a big accomplishment would be an understatement.

The high-fiving didn’t stop there for GM, though. Chevrolet also unveiled the Corvette Z06, which I called the first true American Supercar. Then Cadillac debuted the Cadillac ATS Coupe, which should be an effective shot across the bow of the BMW ship, going after the 4 Series in a meaningful way.

2014 Detroit Auto Show what we learned

Also, the curtains fell on GMC Canyon compact truck, which many journalists agreed overshadowed the much larger Ford F-150 debut, thanks to the Canyon’s top-notch and tech-savvy interior, sophisticated yet rugged good looks, and diesel powerplant.

Lastly, and importantly, GM also announced it’ll begin paying dividends to investors for the first time in six years.

The effect

Why would these GM announcements and awards affect the tone of the show as a whole?

For the last decade, General Motors, along with Chrysler and Ford, have been in scramble mode.

GM and Chrysler fell into bankruptcy and faced losing it all. After years of rethinking its entire model line and strategy, GM is finally making cars people want, ones truly worthy of massive sales figures and illustrious awards.

GM is finally making cars people want.

At the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, you could feel the confidence radiating off of General Motors. It was that feeling that everything was going to be OK that changed the whole vibe in Detroit.

Some might say that the overarching themes of the show were aluminum and efficiency. I think that’s reaching. Sure, the F-150 has lots of aluminum bits, as does the Stingray, now North American Car of the Year. But there wasn’t enough aluminum and efficiency for me to say it underlined the entire show.

No, instead, I’d say the theme of the show was the triumphant return to General Motors to the top of the heap. The General has finally crawled back into its formerly held top spot.

And I dare say it’s never been more deserving.