Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trouble in Detroit Leads to an Exciting Future for the Automobile

This is not one of the thousands of articles being written about the doom and gloom of the economy and the imminent death of at least one of the US Big 3 auto makers. To me, that’s old news. For the most part, we know where this is all going. Everyone has their version of how Detroit will die, and frankly who cares. It’s already time to move on.

This is about the light at the end of the tunnel. This is about looking past the current situation in Detroit. When one door closes, another opens. The door is opening in the automotive world and a few people are brave enough to poke their heads in, take a look around, and size up a whole new world.

The potential death of GM, Ford, or Chrysler will allow for the rise of new companies who frankly, get it. Just as forests require fire to renew themselves, the current state of the auto industry is clearing the way for the strong to survive and new growth to flourish.

So, who is part of this brave new world? Companies that already exist but have been savvy enough during the good times to have invested heavily in emerging technology. Companies who have created niches for themselves or have created products people feel a connection with and a passion for. Companies that don’t even exist yet, but will soon make their indelible mark on our automotive culture.
A few notable examples to mention are Tesla, Fisker, Hyundai, and Mahindra. These companies understand how to think the way the market thinks, and are anticipating our future needs:

- Tesla is changing the perception of electric car performance and elevating electric car design and engineering to a level rivaling established high performance roadsters.
- Fisker is creating a performance luxury hybrid sedan called the Karma. The Karma combines amazing performance and world class styling to highlight their unique American brand and environmentally conscious mission.
- Hyundai has established i2 (their advance product development process) to elevate brand image and develop niche vehicle concepts from the top down to create products future consumers will find intrinsic value in and hopefully, lust for.
- Mahindra is anticipating a need in the US market for a rugged pickup with big truck capacity and hybrid small truck fuel economy. Mahindra also has plans to bring its diesel hybrid technology to US market vehicles and is likely planning full electric cars in the near future.
These are just a handful of new and established automotive manufacturers. There are vehicles, brands, and companies being conceptualized as you read this that are going to take advantage of the current global economy and blow us all away over the next few years. For car people, we are about to witness the most intriguing, and possibly the most golden age of automobiles ever seen.

Lead photo of Mahindra Scorpio Hybrid shown at SAE 2008 Conference via: MotorTrend