Skip to main content

Watching the Detroit Auto Show with design engineering eyes

The first day of the 2011 NAIAS press coverage has already begun. Aside from the never-before-seen products and a host of interviews, events and reveals, there are technical elements that make those products.

Between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the North American International Car and Truck of the Year Award will be announced. The news will be just that, but be apprised there will be more behind the choices. And there will be more tech related advances about to change our driving lives.

There are five transmission technologies, for example, in the auto industry to watch out for: Stepped Manual (MT), Automated Manual (AMT), Stepped Automatic (AT), Dual Clutch (DCT) and Continuously Variable (CVT). Notice which is featured with each display and reveal.

Internal combustion engines (ICE) will not be replaced by electrification anytime soon. Fact is, they are becoming more and more efficient with every generation.

Another fact is, all engine entries will likely have multi-valves, turbo boost, variable cam timing, variable valve timing, direct injection, etc.

The only major technology change left is the HCCI that runs like a diesel on gasoline, but even that cannot compare to the efficiency of splitting the cycle; it even makes air hybrid possible. So, watch which company hints at the next stage of development for ICE.

Hybrids are now common and in competition with EVs. So, be on the lookout for any technology that makes the expense of hybrid a reasonable and balanced purchase decision.

Likewise, watch the full EVs for cost and charge time. Ford and Nissan are already playing marketing wars with those two facets.

EyesOn Design is showcase event for industrial designers. This is becoming a favorite event, as it parades the very best that automotive design has to offer in vision.

The company that shows its technical prowess, though, will likely have the better display on the floor. No longer will the car colors do it, or just the styling. Success at the show will go to the company that brings it all together.

These are just a few notes before I go to the Detroit Auto Show. It's a privilege to go representing and to report on an industry in which I have have spent 39 years of my adult working life.

Additional Reading:
GM impresses CES 2011 with Electric Networked Vehicles
EV marketing battle erupting between Ford and Nissan
Detroit Auto Show live tweets to power auto media