Solarworld No. 1, a German-engineered solar vehicle
Solarworld No. 1, a German-engineered solar vehicle - 
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Steve Chiotakis: It could be worse: You could be in the auto industry, where the transmission's blown and the Big Three CEOs are asking for a congressional push -- uphill. But onwards and forwards we go with new models and innovative designs. Here in Los Angeles, there's a huge auto show debuting tomorrow. But the tires are flat with news that a German solar energy company wants to buy GM's Opel unit, and that offers a different vision. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

Sam Eaton: SolarWorld, a German solar energy company, wants to transform Opel into Europe's first green car company. GM says Opel isn't for sale, despite the $1.25 billion offer.

But automotive industry consultant Eric Noble of The Carlab says it's only a matter of time:

Eric Noble: Rather than put the industry though a twelve-step process, I think we're more likely to see outsiders come in and simply deliver different product.

Noble says throughout history, innovation has always come from the outside, not from within. But auto analyst John Wolkonowicz with Global Insight says the auto industry is a different beast.

John Wolkonowicz: Automotive development, technology development for green vehicles is extremely costly and it requires a company as large as a GM or a Ford or a Volkswagen to pull it off.

The only problem is none of the auto makers have much of a stomach for costly investments right now.

In Los Angeles, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam