Volume 14, Issue 2 - March/April 2012


Quality, Fuel Economy Are Top Priorities at 2012 Auto Show
by Scott Mason

Cars went from boxy shapes with narrow spoke wheels in the 1930s into more aerodynamic designs with wider steel wheels and tires designed for the paved roads of the 1940s. During the 1950s and 1960s, huge amounts of chrome trim-decorated tailings reflecting the country’s fascination with airplanes and rockets. The 1970s brought the last wave of muscle cars that lasted until the gas crisis made us all look for smaller, more fuel-efficient transportation. The 1980s saw a full range of safety features such as airbags and impact-absorbing bumpers. In the 1990s, cars got safer but started to look alike, the new favorite of families were the large fuel hungry SUVs. The beginning of the 21st century has brought us the crossover that blends SUV with sedan and has better mileage. What will be written in 2020 about the last ten years? The recent 2012 North American International Auto Show may have given us a glimpse of what is to come.

“Quality and fuel economy remains at the top, style and sleekness reminiscent from days gone by, along with safety and technology features that make life better going forward.”

The influence from vehicle designs of the past reflected in this year’s North American International Auto Show held in Detroit in early January.

“A touch-screen frenzy is occurring replacing the once familiar, almost standard placement of the radio and heating/
cooling controls.”

Ahh, the Return to Accentuated Curves
Style is returning in both interior and exterior designs. Once considered a kiss of death for making the vehicle age, chrome is making its way back providing a more substantial look and hint of subtle glitz.

LED lighting for and around the headlights is becoming more standard. This interesting design change also uses LED lighting to illuminate the vehicle’s curvature enhancing not only how the vehicle appears in the day, but how it “pops” at night. Similar to interior lighting found on newer vehicles, the exterior illumination can be adjusted reflecting one’s mood.

Don’t Sit There, Draw on the Windows!
I tell my kids continuously not to draw on the windows. Well, General Motors introduced a feature that encourages this behavior. Currently named GM Advanced Tech Window, passengers can now use the rear window as a large tablet. Adults can search points of interest along the route, communicate to fellow motorist, while kids can be accompanied by a companion named “Otto.” Perhaps kids will now fight to sit in the back seat versus calling shot-gun for the front.

Enjoy the Power of Touch
A touch-screen frenzy is on, replacing the once familiar, almost standard placement of the radio and heating/cooling controls. From low-end to high-end vehicles, OEMs from across the globe are racing to add this feature of convenience.

Airbag Protection on the Outside
A task force was assembled in Europe to review the approximate 8,000 pedestrian fatalities that occur per year in the European Union. The bottomline goal is to greatly reduce these deaths by using airbag technology. Though National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) feels America has more trucks and SUVs in the mix and incorporating this technology is more difficult here than in Europe and Asia. That said, OEMs with global platforms are looking to bring this technology to the United States potentially by year 2015.

The Eyes are Watching
Cameras will become integrated into side mirrors and the rear camera back-up assist technology will be extended to the front of the vehicle. Tie these three areas together for a complete 360-degree view. As blind spots increase in vehicle designs, there’s no doubt that the ability to clearly see one’s surroundings and meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard regulations is becoming more difficult.

Moving Forward While Reminiscing the Past
The real story of the 2012 NAIAS was the rebound of North American OE manufacturing. Consumers finally are being heard with respect to what they expect in a vehicle. Quality and fuel economy remain at the top, style and sleekness reminiscent from days gone by, along with safety and technology features that make life better going forward. All of these elements will continue to remain front and center with all of the OEMs as long as the lessons learned from auto manufacturer’s past are remembered.

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


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