Detroit Auto Show: not where it’s at?

January 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

corvette stingray 1966

So last-century? Image copyright GM.

There’s a little motor industry event called the Detroit Auto Show going on right now, but back to that in a mo. Have found an interesting report from KPMG: its 14th Annual Global Automotive Executive Survey found that leading execs in the industry are less optimistic about electric cars than they were this time last year (now saying 6-10 years before they go mainstream) but more hopeful about hybrids (including plug-ins), and are investing heavily in engine downsizing/optimising. Most interesting thing in this report, however, is that a majority of respondents believed that in the next 15 years, up to 15% of city-dwellers world-wide will opt for car use through mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) schemes instead of owning their own car. And it identifies the market for MaaS, as they call it, as having huge potential in China, India and Brazil in particular, as well as in the US and Western Europe, due to rapidly-growing urban populations.

So where does this leave the car-makers? Well, the report sees an opportunity for them to make cars – and especially electric vehicles – for the MaaS schemes, as well as in the resale/remarketing of used cars coming off the MaaS fleets. It also points to “a number of ways to achieve positive margins from such new business models, with respondents most optimistic about the provision of added-value services, such as apps for mobile payment and location-aided services”. Handy summary at Green Car Congress; full report (pdf) here. New Corvette Stingray, anyone? How very 20th-century…

  • A few noteworthy (for me, anyway) announcements and launches in Detroit, though. Good to see that the range-extended Cadillac ELR (posh relative to the Chevy Volt) is a goer – even if it’s only going to sell in small numbers (if at all, in Europe) it shows GM’s commitment to the cause. Also liking the plug-in diesel hybrid Volkswagen Cross Blue (forerunner to the next-gen Touareg?), ultimately a much more practical and usable SUV for most people than the all-electric Tesla Model X, eye-catching and modish though that is.  The high-tech Infiniti Q50 (3-Series-sized) is interesting, too; no figures for the efficiency of the hybrid version as yet, however. Also, the Mercedes-Benz CLA: this front-wheel-drive mini-Merc saloon has been specifically developed with connected-minded younger drivers in mind, and has full iPhone/social media/Google mapping integration with further platform-compatibility and smartphone app controls to follow. And supplier firm Schaeffler has a research vehicle on display, a compact SUV promising fuel savings of up to 15% thanks to stop-start, enhanced thermal management, reduced friction, an optimised clutch and torque converter plus further detail-tweaks.
  • And the Tokyo Auto Salon (tuner show) last week: a concept from Yokohama Tyres, the Aero-Y EV, shows how new adhesives and sealants, nano-blend tyres, new carbonfibre-reinforced plastics and improved aerodynamics can conserve energy efficiency in an EV.
  • Finally: Valencian researchers have developed an app to improve driving style and fuel efficiency. About pilot research here, and it’s available for Android, here, or at the Google store.
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