Vehicle rollouts take backseat to talk about future at Detroit auto show

The news at the auto show isn’t happening on the floor at Cobo Center — it’s happening behind the scenes as automakers prepare for the next iteration of the industry and a possible slowdown.

Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG officials plan to announce Tuesday at least part of a broader global partnership even as VW confirmed plans to build a plant for electric vehicles in Chattanooga, Tenn. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is preparing to increase its plant capacity to make way for new profit-rich SUVs.

And General Motors Co. President Mark Reuss used the first press day of the North American International Auto Show to explain the company’s rationale for cutting jobs and idling plants as the company continues to post profits. He says tougher times ahead require difficult decisions now.

Downturns can happen faster than expected — “much, much faster,” Reuss said, walking his fingers to the edge of a table in a private room behind the Chevrolet stand. When he reached the edge of the table, he plunged his hand toward the ground.