It was quite a year for American automakers. And for sales of cars in the U.S. in general.

Automakers saw their first signs of progress in 2011 in three years, when the economic downturn demolished sales and left the Big Three of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors all at least teetering on bankruptcy.

Last year, though, the industry started to climb out of those depths. Sales jumped. The Big Three said they planned to hire back or hire anew 25,000 workers by the end of 2015. Analyst expectations were met and exceeded.

Good feelings surround the auto industry -- especially in the U.S. And this Monday will mark the start of another year during which automakers look to make more big strides. Monday, of course, marks the start of the 2012 North American International Auto Show -- more affectionately known as the Detroit Auto Show.

It's where numerous automakers will come together to introduce more than 40 new cars. It's where concepts will be revealed, where previous concepts will turn into reality, and where automakers hope to make a splash.

It's hard to pick five cars to pinpoint for next week. But here are five that are making the most buzz to keep an eye on heading into one of the most important weeks of the year for automakers.