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But, Mr. DeLorenzo noted, that is not the whole reason for the U.S. companies’ 2011 surge.

“However, both of these companies were starting to struggle long before the earthquake happened. This is something the U.S. car companies have taken advantage of - the timing worked out for Detroit car companies in that they had new products, whereas Japanese car companies had a bunch of basically stale product. Detroit has exploited that,” he said.

Mr. DeLorenzo praised design and overall efficiency, noting that U.S. automakers are “leaner and more focused.”

“They know what they have to do. It’s just up to them to execute,” he said. “I actually think that Detroit will continue to gain market share and show gains and I really think they aren’t going to lapse back into their old ways. I think they finally understand and they have gotten the message.”

One challenge for U.S. and global auto companies is convincing consumers that green technology is a good investment. Even after a decade of Toyota’s Prius and the entry of such newer models as Nissan’s Leaf and GM’s Volt into the marketplace, the public has resisted environmentally friendly cars.

“We saw hybrid sales really struggle in 2011,” said Ms. Lindland, noting that those vehicles claimed 2.1 percent of market share in 2011, down from 2.4 percent of the market in 2010.

“Some of that was due to Prius and lack of availability, but the reality is there are 29 other types of those vehicles that consumers could buy and they didn’t buy those when the Prius wasn’t available,” she said. “I think hybrid technology continues to struggle, but it’s here to stay because of fuel economy standards, which are ever toughening. The struggle is to get consumers to want these products as much as manufacturers need them.”