Still reeling from the sharp increase in gas prices,
American automakers have fallen behind in the creation of eco-friendly electronic
features, a new study says.
iSuppli Corp., a market intelligence firm,
says the ability for a vehicle to generate an eco-friendly driving route
or provide real-time feedback about driving patterns has been mostly limited to
Audi or Germany,
Fiat of Italy and Kia of South
Korea, as well as Honda
and Nissan of Japan.
Meanwhile, the study says, such features have been nearly non-existent in the U.S.
and Asians have definitely brought the features to the market more quickly," says Phil Magney, vice president for automotive research for iSuppli. "But
it's certainly not due to any lack of technology on the part of the Big Three.
They have the same technologies, they're talking to the same people and
they're working with the same supply chain as the Asians and Europeans."
analysts say eco-friendly features could be important for automakers in
the near future, particularly if gasoline prices continue to rise. The ability
to create an eco-friendly route, for example, could matter to car buyers who
are trying to reduce the amount of gasoline they burn as they travel to and
from work every day.
Ironically, the incorporation of
such features isn't costly for automakers. Calculating a high mpg
route, for example, requires modifications to some of the routing algorithms in
the navigation system. No extra hardware is necessary, Magney says. Yet by
adding such algorithms, a navigation system could calculate the route based on
such variables as traffic, road slope and overall distance.
Similarly, real-time driver feedback
could use software algorithms to alert drivers to the fact that they may be
accelerating too fast or braking too hard, thus enabling them to burn less
gasoline in the long run.
Magney says American companies
fell behind in this area largely because the U.S.
felt the pinch of high gas prices after Japan
"It has to do with the rapid run-up
in the price of fuel," Magney says. "The domestic OEMs weren't able to
anticipate the potential demand for these types of applications."
In contrast, European and Asian
countries have always had higher fuel prices, often running twice those of U.S.
prices. "European and Asian brands have always been a bit more sensitive to the
economy," Magney says. "Detroit
has just been caught off guard by this."