The show is historically the best attended in the nation, with more than one million tire kickers checking out about 1,000 vehicles displayed over 846,000 square feet of floor space.
The cars reflect the range and ambition of an industry finally getting back on its feet after a wrenching recession, which brought two American carmakers, General Motors and Chrysler, into and out of bankruptcy.
In terms of potential sales, the most significant among dozens of new models include the Nissan Altima, redesigned for 2013, and the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. Their arrival dates in showrooms haven't been specified. The Altima, in particular, is a perennial Long Island favorite, with more than 69,600 on the roads here, according to R.L. Polk and Co.
Other notable introductions at the show, mostly of 2013 models, include the redesigned Chevrolet Traverse and Hyundai Santa Fe crossover (car/truck) sport utility vehicles; the new Dodge Dart compact sedan, which is about to arrive in showrooms to replace the Caliber; and the next-generation Lexus ES, the brand's bestselling car, to go on sale later this year.
More important as eye candy than bread and butter are a redesigned Dodge Viper sports car, due in showrooms late this year after a two-year absence; and the Transition Roadable Aircraft, which is described by its manufacturer, Terrafugia Inc. of Woburn, Mass., as a prototype of a street-legal plane with foldable wings.
Rising sales of vehicles
The show launches amid rising sales. Consumers in the New York City region bought 9.3 percent more new vehicles in January and February than in those months last year, according to registration figures compiled for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, sponsors of the show.
"My business is probably up 30 percent over last year," said Mark Calisi, who sells Chevrolets, Kias, Mazdas and Volvos on Route 58 in Riverhead.
Industry watchers at True Car.com say March sales were at an annualized national rate of 14.5 million vehicles, the highest since August 2007, when the recession was beginning. Still, full recovery to annual pre-recession sales of more than 16 million remains in the future.
Jesse Toprak, TrueCar's vice president of market intelligence, said, "As long as the stock market continues to perform well, we believe we're going to have robust sales for the rest of the year."
Other noteworthy new models at the New York show are a redesigned Porsche Boxster, Hyundai Genesis coupe and Toyota Venza; Acura RD-X, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Buick Enclave crossover SUVs; the new Infiniti JX and GMC Terrain Denali SUVs; two small wagons, the Subaru XV Crosstrek and BMW X1; and the second-generation electric-powered Toyota RAV4 crossover.
Cadillac is featuring two sedans: the large XTS and compact ATS, the latter unusual as a Cadillac with a four-cylinder engine. It's aimed at competitors like the four-cylinder 2013 Acura ILX going on sale late in the spring and redesigned Lincoln MKZ due later in the year in the "entry-level luxury" category.
Reflecting rising gasoline prices is the fuel-efficient 2013 Chevrolet Spark, a subcompact four-door hatchback due at dealerships in summer. Another small car, the two-door 2013 Scion FR-S to go on sale in June, is sportier and was codeveloped by Toyota and Subaru. The latter will sell its version starting in May, as the 2013 BRZ.
New convertibles include the first soft-top Mini and the BMW M6, the latter due in showrooms this spring. Las Vegas auto engineering company Shelby American Inc. is showing what it calls its most powerful car ever, the limited-production Shelby 1000. Based on a 2012 Ford Mustang, it starts at about $150,000 and packs 950 hp. in street version and "over" 1,100 hp. for racing. Mercedes, meanwhile, plans to introduce its 631-hp. SL65 AMG to Americans in late fall.
Concept vehicles this year include a few that are electric or hybrid: the Toyota NS4, a midsize sedan for possible sale by 2015; the Lexus LF-LC, a sporty car; and two BMWs -- a sporty car and a small SUV, the i8 and i3, set to go on sale within the next two years.
Two concept vehicles are convertibles -- the big Cadillac Ciel and the Volkswagen E-Bugster -- the latter with styling evocative of the Beetle but with an electric drivetrain.
The show opens to the public at 10 a.m. Friday and runs through April 15.