Whilst flying back from a business trip in Germany, I was reading an article in my “fly-by-wire” Airbus from the Global NY Times by James Carroll. It was all about the great American romance for cars being over, mentioning eco issues, and Toyota’s probs, etc. I particularly loved the play on words with “hard drive” and “crash” saying they used to be physical things to do with cars, but now it’s all about the on board computer gadgetry crashing.
I can understand. Back when I was 18-years-old and was messing around with modified cars down the back lanes, a hard drive was always needed to test my latest tweeks. I was lucky. I never crashed any cars – and I still have my tuned SAAB 96 V4 now 20 years later.
Would today’s cars last 20 years?
Then I thought, it must be a generation thing – the NY Times journalist is older than me after all!! He comes from a generation where low tuned big engines were the solution to reliability. Fuel consumption and pollution weren’t issues.
Today, as we all know, it’s a completely different story. I for one couldn’t go to work every day in my beloved 1972 SAAB. It’s just not safe enough, fuel efficient enough, quiet enough, and easy to drive in traffic jams – I have to turn the heating on in the summer to stop the engine from steaming!
But for a lot of people the romance of cars has changed, if they ever had one.
Believe it or not most people just want to get from A to B efficiently, safely and in comfort. Ask most people what they hate about cars and they’ll say: purchase prices, reliability issues and running costs.
As the Chinese proverb goes “May you live in interesting times”. Well, I can safely say that the Automotive Industry is certainly going through its biggest moment since Henry Ford.
Remember how confusing it was for us to grow into adulthood from that awkward teenager? I think the automobile is going through just this.
The child car was a mechanical car, fashioned from a good 100 years of mechanical excellence…just think of those magnificent steam trains, bridges and the Eiffel tower!
The teenage car was a bold and innovative if not reckless car, but the mature adult car is not yet upon us.
We still have the young adult trying to find his way in the jungle of regulations, demanding customers, ultra urbanisation, altered usage patterns, … and now to make things more complex he/she’s got a baby, and the baby’s called “multi-discipline engineering” but it nickname is “mecatronics“!
So in my opinion the Automotive Industry is on the verge of a phoenix like rebirth, where we’ll see a change akin to the iPhone made to mobile communications. We do truly live in interesting time…
What’s your take?