23 January 2009

Can technology save Detroit?

Motor shows aren't my cup of tea. I went to the London show once, and even managed to write a story. It was about some fancy electronic diagnostic system that Volkswagen was pushing out into the dealers that serviced its vehicles.

That was a long time ago. But even then it was pretty obvious that Detroit, the city that gave as the mass produced motor car, was behind the curve when it came to adopting technology.

Japan threw technology at making cars. It also began the arms race of adding technologically inspired bits and pieces to make cars more attractive to buyers.

European car makers were no slouch when it came to technology. Wasn't it Audi that gave us the "vorsprung der technik" slogan?

Detroit simply didn't feature in the technology game, as you found when you went to the USA and hired one of the cars made there. But now we have the leaders of the American motor industry calling for the US government to help to fund the adoption of technology, as I found when writing my latest rant for the IET, Can technology save Detroit?

Much of the enthusiasm for technology hinges on the electric car, which both Chevrolet and Ford talked about long and loud at this years Detroit car show, inevitably labelled the "North American International Auto Show".

Americans generally have more enthusiasm for new technology than Europeans, but when it comes to cars, they don't seem to have the same love of the new, or of the environmentally responsible. So Detroit may have a hard time selling this particular package to customers even if the government buys the sales pitch.

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