The 21st century will witness major changes in the way cars are manufactured, designed, fueled and operated. Each car company is strategically positioning itself to be able to deliver an increasing diversity of products to a market being torn in different directions by the needs of the environment, consumer behavior, and unprecedented opportunities to gain a competitive edge. This race for superior cars, after years of planning, is now taking a dramatic new shape.
The auto industry has undergone a major transformation within the last five years. The environment frequently peppers discussions of the near- and long-term futures of each of the world's major car manufacturers. Hype surrounding new 'green' motor vehicle products reflects this changeover:
- Ford claims its TH!NK city, an electric vehicle (EV), is being sold faster than it can build them.
- General Motors proudly displays the sleek, aerodynamic Precept, featuring one of the lowest drag coefficients ever. This hybrid vehicle may ultimately be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
- Nissan's Sentra CA (Clean Air) is the only gasoline-fueled vehicle in the world to receive California Air Resources Board certification as a super ultra low emissions vehicle. Daimler Chrysler has already released something resembling Amory Lovins' Hyper-car: the ESX3, a hybrid that gets 72 mpg largely due to a body comprised mostly of plastic which weighs 46 percent less (and costs 15 percent less) than a steel car.
- Volvo, which a decade ago embarked on voluntary environmental initiatives that focused on improvements in manufacturing and design efficiency, points to the S80 as a superior environmental car.
Yet who will emerge as the leader of these first phase changes, and become the global champion of eco-cars?.