Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mostly Unsurprising Answers To An Interesting Question

The April issue of Road & Track published answers to a question posed at the Detroit Auto Show.  Here they are summarized in boldface, with my own observations in italic.  (See pp. 10-11 of the magazine if you want the names of the responders and their longer quotes).  Why nobody from G.M.?

Question: "What will have defined the U.S. market in five years' time?"


Audi: several approaches to energy efficiency; wi-fi connectivity.  So much for the fun of pre-planning a road trip with a Rand McNally Atlas, and enjoying the scenery, the drive, and the car.  When your co-pilot isn't plugged into the virtual world instead of the real one, he/she will be a necessary accessory to avoid distracted driving: your app concierge and amanuensis.

Ford: fuel economy.  Period, full stop.

Volkswagen: besides fuel economy, vehicle cost.  Fewer nameplates, more consolidation.  Porsche, the guppy that tried to swallow the whale in an unfriendly takeover bid, is now owned by VW.  Look for further acquisitions coming to a nameplate near you.

Bentley: CO2 emissions.  Thus that "Bentley Smart" urban concept car: get that CAFE up.

Mini: the customer experience; we want them to be part of "the Mini family."  Sounds like a recipe for the consolidation predicted by VW.  "The Saturn Family" didn't work for G.M. as a stand-alone brand.  It won't work for BMW either.  A Mini model sold from BMW showroom floors?

Dodge: fuel economy and styling.  Um...you might want to get to work on that second part.  And don't Dodge Rams have the biggest engines you can get in a pickup?

Mercedes-Benz: more electric cars and alternative powertrains.

Tesla: electric cars.  What else would Tesla say?  Sounds like they want to get bought by Detroit, too.

Lincoln: value-for-money; not necessarily cheaper, but people will want value more than they want to make a personal statement.  Um...you mean that Ininiti, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac don't offer value for money?  Lincoln remains a brand in search of an identity.  It will take more than an ugly grille.  Maybe you could buy Tesla.

Jaguar: cars and engines will become smaller, but still internal combustion.  Americans will take a more European approach to purchasing decisions.  Marketing that new turbo 4-cylinder, eh? 


2013 Jaguar XF: "luxury car of the future," according to Jag, with a 240 h.p. turbo inline 4. 

In our various depths of in-the-tankness for the Ford Focus ST, Hotshoe, Pilote, and Watchtower have seen the future of the high-performance car: a turbo 4 or V-6, not an 8.  Maybe even a twin-turbo 1.4 liter four.  (G.M. can always sell enough Chevy Cruzes to offset a 6-liter Corvette; not all nameplates have that luxury.)  Despair not, however: a fix for the distracted driving of your internet hot spot is in my upcoming driverless car rant.   

1 comment:

Wannabe Hotshoe said...

Growing up in Detroit in the 50's and 60's kinda gives you an insight into my car prejudices. But that aside, I remember the prognostications offered by many (usually on the pages of Popular Science or the other magazine with Tom McCahill, Popular Mechanics) of the future "roadways" littered with hovercraft, monorails, hook-into auto-drive highways, and, of course, flying "cars". But the Chrysler engineer who lived across the street brought home one of the prototype Turbine Cars with a strange lap-level twin radio knob steering system. A lot of concept cars have been created, but basic mechanical underpinnings have remained, just with other "user interfaces" for the driver. I've always hoped my "Detroit Big Three" would step ahead in the innovation competition. We'll see. There's always hope.

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