The automakers have little to say publicly about the crisis.
Most of their operations in Michigan are now outside Detroit, and getting any top executive to even discuss the possibility of a city bankruptcy was almost impossible at the auto show.
"I don't want to get into the politics," said GM CEO Dan Akerson, while Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said: "I don't see what the consequences would be for us."
One of the city's biggest challenges is its complex set of labor agreements with a whopping 48 bargaining units that represent most of the city's workforce.
Max Newman, a bankruptcy attorney at Michigan-based Butzel Long, said a Chapter 9 bankruptcy could help the city throw out its collective bargaining agreements with unions.
Costs would have to be tackled since Detroit cannot just jack up taxes to reduce the cumulative budget deficit, which grew to $326.6 million in fiscal 2012 from $196.6 million in fiscal 2011. The state would likely resist tax increases, and they might only make matters worse anyway. "If taxes go up any further it would exacerbate the flight out of the city," Newman said.
But for some of those who have seen Detroit struggle for years, bankruptcy is starting to look like the least awful option - even though it will be painful.
"I think...off and on, that it wouldn't be a bad idea," said former Ford chief financial officer Allan Gilmour, now the president of Detroit's Wayne State University. "Let's clean this out once and for all."
Image: Another row of deserted homes in an east side neighborhood once full of homes in Detroit.