Volume 13, Issue 2 - March/April 2011


Detroit Delivers

Automotive Industry Shows Returning Spark in Detroit
by Scott Mason

A sense of revival and excitement was in the air earlier this year at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Revamped vehicle designs to return the industry to profitability, while keeping pace with the speed of changing world dynamics, were seen throughout the show. Vehicle sales are up, styling is improved, fuel economy remains a priority, and comforts that were once held for premium brands now are being seen in all vehicle segments. I’m not ready to say the good-old days are back, but it seems as though the storm has passed. Being a Michigan native, I say, let the Renaissance begin.

The show’s opulence has not returned to those of years’ past, nor has the outrageous styling of the concept cars. However, the show remains grounded with what consumers are demanding: environmental friendliness, sustainable forms of transportation, and connectedness.

The Race to Build Hybrids
Green is no longer a concept on paper; it’s the next evolutionary track. All major OEMs either have a hybrid in their offerings or will introduce a hybrid by the 2012 calendar year. The goal has changed from simply offering a hybrid solution to providing a hybrid with stunning design.

On the home front, the Chevy Volt received three accolades: Car of the Year, 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, and Green Car of the Year, beating out the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Sonata (see related story in September/October 2010 AGRR, page 28).

The Volt’s lithium ion battery can charge in 10 to 12 hours with a 120-volt outlet or in four hours when a 240-volt electrical charging outlet is installed. With an average cost of $1.50 per day to charge, the car boasts a range of 35 miles on pure electric and 380 miles when factoring the total power package.

One innovative feature for individuals who love their smartphones is the Volt’s mobile app. It allows the owner to check battery charge level, available range, tire pressure, remote lock/unlock, and activate the remote start to heat or cool the interior. This is just one more thing to impress your family and friends.

Porsche has integrated what it’s calling “Porsche Intelligent Performance” into its 918 RSR. The vehicle stores power when in a braking position and distributes it to optimize performance.

Li-ion Motor, based in Mooresville, N.C., has a 100 percent electric super car that can go from speeds of 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.

Walking around the body, you would not guess it was an electric vehicle, but rather a morphed version of a Ferrari with an extended wheel base.

Bringing a “cool green attitude” was a small French manufacturer, Venturi, which debuted its Venturi America. The company prefers to call its creation an electric cart, but the styling suggests an aggressive, two-seat sports car.

Chinese Automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) was on display on the main level of the hall. Its concept is interesting, yet the message to consumers was confusing and sometimes dark. One thing is certain, this company intends on changing the industry with its core message, called Green Dreams. In true vertical integration, BYD intends to own the manufacturing and supply grid, including its offering of renewable energy creation (wind, solar and hydro), an environmentally energy storage power grid, and its consumption by efficient electric vehicles.

Solar panels in the vehicle’s roof allow it to charge continuously. The vehicle design is an odd mix of vehicles of the past from multiple OEMs. With the backing of Warren Buffet and with test vehicles already on the road in Southern California, I wouldn’t bet against this company.

“The show remains grounded with what consumers are demanding:environmental friendliness, sustainable forms of transportation, and connectedness.”

All That’s Glass
Panoramic roofs in which the windshield, roof and backlite appear as one, maximizing the amount of light entering the passenger cabin, are becoming the identifying marks of the high-end segment.

Mercedes displayed a high-end concept in which the separation between glass sections is mere millimeters. The glass is affixed to the roof bow with a high-performing adhesive. Bring these cars into cold-weather states or areas that experience hail, and
watch our industry grow!

Hyundai introduced its Crub concept car. The vehicle is loaded with technology and feature designs that starts with the glass spilling into the hood and wrapping around the cowl, covering the A-pillars. The A-pillar’s strength is not compromised, though; metal is shaped to resemble a double-helix DNA to provide strength and rigidity.

The Dance is Over
The 2011 NAIAS is officially in the books, which means the anticipation is growing for the automakers to put everything that was shown into production. This year’s show was critical for the domestic OEMs, as it was the first real look into their post-bankruptcy—and they delivered.

Scott Mason is a senior account manager for Dow Automotive – Aftermarket. He is based in Detroit.



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