Detroit 2009: Jeep Patriot EV and Chryslers Spartan show stand

Unlike the smashing Detroit-show debuts that Jeep vehicles have enjoyed in the past, the Jeep Patriot EV was unveiled with the simple pulling away of a sheet. Not very inventive, but Chrysler’s auto-show budget has obviously; been hugely slashed in light of its recent government loans.

For example, Chrysler’s ultrasimple 2009 Detroit stand has no waterfall, no Wii video games, no en masse dining areas, no bright backlit signs, and very few vehicle pedestals or turntables. A cutaway of the new Dodge Ram and a few Mopar-accessorized cars are pretty much the most exciting things on the ground, nestled among a host of production cars flooding your local Dodge dealer. Oh, and don’t forget your local GEM dealer, too; there are plenty of those on display at Chrysler this year as the company tries to make its own case as the planet-savingest maker in town.

Chrysler VP and president Jim Press was frank about the extreme differences between this year’s presentation and that in early 2008, when the company closed down some of Detroit’s frigid city streets to make way for a huge herd of frisky cattle to accompany the launch of its 2009 Dodge Ram. Press joked that the cattle were lined up to make an appearance at the show today, but the “cow czar” in Washington, D.C., didn’t approve. A defensive-but-confident-sounding Press later highlighted the company-saving efforts made in the last year or so: 3200 positions eliminated, dealer inventories down by 12 percent, fleet sales slashed by one-third, and more.

As far as the Patriot EV is concerned … Well, there’s not much to say other than it’s the ENVI technology packed into a new platform. It seemed an afterthought to Chrysler, too, which spared only six pages of its press kit on the Patriot EV. (It does have cool unique wheels and a streamlined front end.)

At least Chrysler’s display has some decent lighting here at Detroit, unlike its dire effort at last November’s Los Angeles show. Truth be told, all is not doom and gloom at Chrysler: Press foretells of twenty-four major launches in the next four years, including eight in the next twelve months. Despite major questions about the future of the company, it’s encouraging to know that a future of some sort is expected.