Detroit Auto Show reveals a tale of two markets

Detroit Auto Show reveals a tale of two markets

The Detroit Auto Show (officially the North American International Auto Show), which opened this week, is a tale of two markets, according to media reports. One is the market with products selling well now, in a time of record low gas prices SUVs, crossovers and light trucks. (Chrysler even introduced a new minivan with an old name, the Pacifica.) The other is the market mandated by government regulation, with the hybrids and electric vehicles that will allow automakers to meet a CAFE requirement of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Successful automakers will need to invest in both markets, says Daniel Howes of the Detroit News.

The Washington Auto Show in recent years has showcased automakersê alternative fuel offerings because, well, itês Washington. Government officials and policy wonks love to see those vehicles. But the Washington auto market is not typical of the rest of the country. One difference: Year after year, cars have sold better than trucks here. It was unusual when trucks reached 50 percent of the Washington area market in the third quarter WANADA Area Report. Nationally, trucks and SUVs make up 55.7 percent of vehicle sales.

Some of the alternative fuel vehicles that were at the Detroit show will be at the upcoming Washington Auto Show, where they could play a more central role, to cater to a local audience. The Chevrolet Bolt electric car may not see huge sales, but it will no doubt get a lot of media play, and will be praised by government regulatory officials as an example of Detroitês ingenuity, at the WAS next week. The Volvo XC90 received a lot of attention in Detroit for being named the North American Truck/Utility of the Year. The Washington show will feature the XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid, showcasing the vehicleês green credentials.

Auto industry executives at the Detroit show and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas also talked about two topics that will be discussed at the MobilityTalks panel during the Washington showês Public Policy Days: autonomous vehicles and the expansion of the auto industry to a broader sort of mobility. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, shown in Detroit, has some of the most advanced semi-autonomous features of any vehicle yet, including a Connected Car technology that lets it communicate with other vehicles on the road. Renault-Nissan announced at the Detroit show that it would market more than 10 autonomous vehicles by 2020.

On the mobility front, General Motors announced earlier this year that it was investing in ride-sharing service Lyft. Ford is partnering with Amazon to deliver cars and with Apple and Google to build infotainment systems for its cars. Look for more collaboration between Detroit and Silicon Valley. As industry analyst h David Cole has said, automakers must –adapt or die.”

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