a spotter’s guide to the revolution: detroit

the coverage that caught my attention…
are sedans going the way of the internal combustion engine?
“The shift by the public away from two-door and four-door passenger cars is defining where and how automakers are spending their research and development money with more investment going to trucks and SUVs.”


ford fights for lead in the all-electric push.
Ford announced plans to start selling the Mach 1, an electric high-performance SUV in 2020. The auto maker said it will invest $11 billion to create 40 new electric and hybrid vehicles that will be available by 2022 (16 of which will be all-electric, like the Mach 1).


teched out is the new normal.
“Quiet cabins, Wi-Fi connectivity, wireless charging, LED headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are no longer differentiators. Just about every automaker boasted these features Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.”


change knowledge in action.
“Regaining its bearings under new CEO Jim Hackett, Ford threw the full weight of its resources at the North American International Auto Show this year, making news from the past, present and future for a throng of automotive journalists during its press day. Ford reached back 50 years to pull one of its brand hallmarks—the car from the Steve McQueen racing movie Bullitt—out of obscurity.”


it’s a fan thing.
detroit news reported that “Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, feels the series’ future is bright… and exciting… with 21 drivers winning races the last three years, including 10 last season, attendance is up and four new teams have been added for this season.”

superfan, NBC Sports MotorSportTalk writer Tony DiZinno tweeted: Mark Reuss, President GM North America, notes how INDYCAR and DetroitGP has “taught our company how to win again.”

the fifth installment of indycar’s ‘racing heart’ campaign — launched in detroit. the campaign puts fans in the driver’s seat for every adrenaline fueled moment of the high-speed competition. and the fans, they like it. the launch event garnered 1.5M impressions, more than double those of 2017. the multi-platform campaign hits top speed with the first race of the season in st. petersburg, florida march 11th.

a spotter’s guide to the revolution: sex

fashion, beauty, style and culture have all been employed to make cars sexy to consumers, but the conversation on sex is changing dramatically — and at the dawn of an “era of disruption” for the auto industry no less.

in a recent nytimes article about how the new cultural emphasis on morals and ethics is reshaping business school curriculums, the co-director of carnegie mellon’s tepper school of business, leanne meyer, said “this is not just a gender issue. it’s a business issue. it has marketing implications, legal implications, h.r. implications.”

this has been going on a long time. through the ages kind of long. #metoo isn’t new — it started a decade ago, and is a relative newcomer to the conversation. In a different nytimes article “how tough is it to change a culture of harassment? ask women at ford,” female workers at ford’s chicago plants have been battling harassment for almost 30 years, albeit quietly, without the bolstering of a national conversation. 

“at a moment when so many people are demanding that sexual harassment no longer be tolerated, the story of the ford plants shows the challenges of transforming a culture.”

i think tepper’s argument about marketing implications is spot on — women buy things. including cars.

even though men have traditionally been targeted in automotive marketing — i’ll go into why in a different post — women are, in my experience, who most often make the final call on which car is purchased. that feminine sway is especially apparent in the luxury car market.

luxury used to be about exclusivity, defined for decades by tribe, attainment, and craftsmanship. but over the last year, what we as culture mean by luxury has changed. the new luxury is about how much downstream impact a purchase has. how much influence the purchase (or refusal to purchase) has. ethics is the new luxury. and at this moment in time, nothing is as ethically charged as sex. 

I have used, to great success, the notion of the ‘sexy attractor’ to sell cars. i’m pretty sure i will again. we remain, after all, sexual beings.

i am personally invested in this conversation. I’m curious about the emerging rules of engagement, and actively championing new codes of conduct in culture — and in courting consumers.

a spotter’s guide to the revolution: the argument for gasoline

if the headline had been “the good argument for gasoline” this would be a blank post, which is what i really wanted to do. a blank post kind of cracked me up, but there is one argument for gasoline that we could end up staring down the barrel of one day.

in this article, from controversial crowd-sourcing investment platform seeking alpha, an argument that hinges upon potential advances in clean air technologies sets up how the current administration could not just reduce or eliminate electric car subsidies, but even tax or outright ban electric cars in the u.s.

what? with the mantel of electric being held by china and championed by europe, banning electric cars in the u.s. would create a certain lack of competitive edge for us globally, and would leave the states within the union that are committed to the transition holding the proverbial bag.

i’m trying to keep an open mind as i investigate electric, hybrid, and gasoline — and i’m still looking for a good argument for gasoline only.

a spotter’s guide to the revolution: speed bumps and goosebumps

“nothing tesla does is normal,” says a KBB senior analyst. “[musk] pushes people to think further and faster, and we need people like that.” but despite his visionary prowess, npr reports the innovator’s company has missed its production goals, and it has analysts wondering if the company can keep up with itself.

while carmakers are developing electric vehicles at a breakneck pace, infrastructure is segueing organically… except when it comes to highway chargers, presenting a “buying hurdle” for eager buyers.

volkswagen joins the ranks of car brands taking on tesla with its latest announcement: they’re accelerating a push into electric with plans to develop five all-electric models.

if car makers are going to want their electric vehicles to compete with internal combustion engines, the battery prices will “need to drop by more than half” according to bloomberg new energy finance, and that isn’t projected to happen until 2025.

and this. not only will harmful emissions be cut drastically worldwide when internal combustion engines start fading off the roadways, but researchers expect electric vehicles to displace more than 8 million barrels of oil a day by 2040. that gives me goose bumps. 8 million barrels a day.

a spotter’s guide to the revolution: the crash

is there any topic as ethically loaded as power?

in every application — gender, politics, economics, sexuality — power draws a dotted line in the sand, and every person is forced to decide which side they stand on: with those who have the power, or with those who don’t.

the ethics of power has raced, once again, into the conversation about cars.

the current buzz around the future of the auto industry has been largely focused on electric and autonomous vehicles. i’ve already made the case for why i see this as more of a pivot, than a disruption. and as the conversation continues, it becomes clear that self-driving cars represent just one aspect of the changing vehicular eco-system.

the real disruption is taking place in the development of a different set of technologies: V2V or vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

a recent nytimes article explored this mysterious yet certain intelligent automated future, “what is certain is that those who play the largest roles in solving it will be in a position to dictate — as those who control infrastructure always have been — which people and places they will empower and which they will upend.”

V2V equipped autonomous vehicles are connected to other vehicles on the road, making them able to anticipate potentially life-threatening conditions. so at first glance, the values of V2V stand in saving lives. who can argue with that?

the ethical implications of V2V technology are a bit more complicated, though.

autonomous vehicles demand that we divide the risk of harm amongst all the people on and near the road. whose safety is prioritized? right now, it’s up to you as the driver.

but, according to azim shariff, director of the culture and morality lab at the university of california, irvine most people don’t necessarily think about it that way. shariff says, “leaving that ‘decision’ up to your subconscious becomes its own ethical choice, once ‘the luxury of deliberation’ embodied by the preprogrammed car exists.”

self-interest versus the greater good. where would you draw the line as a crash draws near?

a spotter’s guide to the revolution

“i don’t make this claim lightly,” [mary barra, ceo of general motors] said. “i believe we are on the verge of a revolution in personal transportation.”
porsche announces new sports car and suv subscription program
porsche passport provides members flexible access to porsche vehicles via a mobile app. and… the mythical porsche mission e has been sighted! the most obvious competitor to tesla in the high end market and “one of the most exciting electric cars in the works,” the mission e is slated for 2019 release.
lexus gets dibs on toyota’s self-driving features
the luxury brand will offer “level 4” self-driving technology in the first half of the 2020s. (lexus also canceled its sponsorship deals with weinstein tv and film projects.)
daimler owned car-sharing company car2go is replacing all its smart cars in seattle with mercedes-benz.
they plan to do the same in portland, denver, and austin, citing better smartphone app integration with mercedes, resulting in a smoother experience for users.
bmw reports uptick in electric vehicle sales
sales in the first 9 month of 2017 have exceeded sales for all of 2016 (they sold more than 10,000 vehicles in september alone) and the company is confidently on track to deliver target of 100,000 by year-end.
you can’t buy a self-driving bmw until 2021 (and that’s a good thing)
“right now a lot of that strategy hinges on its partners while the automaker maintains the bmw brand.”
tesla may run out of cash
what?! even though they’re currently valued at more than gm and ford combined, the uncertainty that apple and google present undermines that valuation.
yeah, i think mary barra has it right…

the era that prides itself on disruption

when people start talking about disruption, my mind can’t help but look at what, if anything, is actually changing. 

every brand will come up against the hard edge of the new at some point, because our world is changing, in almost every way. and rapidly.

which is why, three years ago i wrote “in order to survive, let alone succeed, brands must be able to adapt, to accelerate through the turns.”

i have long been a proponent of adaptability as a means of not just surviving, but thriving.

but adaptable does not mean chameleon-like. it means responsive. agile. able to pivot when the success of the play requires it. the interesting thing about a pivot is that, while it can represent a total about-face, it’s often just a tactical shift, with no real objective or vision shift.

the big pivots that are capturing my curiosity are happening within the auto industry. car makers are still car makers, but they’re pivoting on the kinds of engines they manufacture as they look towards an all electric future.

and things like rideshare and car memberships will require a big pivot in their distribution models. exciting.

and then there’s AI. if the proliferation of transportation startups is a sign that we’re entering a new era, then hold onto your hats.