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Slideshow: Detroit Auto Show Highlights EVs, Hybrids

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Beth Stackpole
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Auto industry has done a real turnaround
Beth Stackpole   1/20/2012 7:03:05 AM
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Wow, really, really cool slide show. I'm no auto buff, but what strikes me most is how innovative many of these new vehicle designs and components are--and not the kind of innovative where you think space-age out there, but innovative in terms of practicality in the modern world.

I particularly loved the look of the Dodge Dart (I can't totally recall, but wasn't that a really old-style grandpa car back in the day?). It certainly isn't now, with its sleek styling. I also loved the idea of auto makers teaming up with IT leaders like Intel, Microsoft (and hopefully Apple). Those kind of alliances have to be the future of getting slick infotainment/telematics systems in cars that deliver high utility, but keep driver safety in mind.

 

 

Alexander Wolfe
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Styling Changes
Alexander Wolfe   1/20/2012 9:01:48 AM
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I just noticed something that's been neglected amidst all the talk about alternative energy. Namely, I think we're seeing a "sameness" in styling that recalls the time in the 1980s when all the automakers started to move to "jellybean" shapes. I'm wowed by the technology in these cars, but I'll be darned if I can get really excited about the look of any of them. Perhaps that's why the new retro Dodge muscle cars (Charger etc) are such a kick. They're they only ones that stand out from the crowd.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Styling Changes
Beth Stackpole   1/20/2012 10:26:11 AM
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I agree Alex. I love the look of those updated muscle cars and I have to say, I thought the Lexus concept car was pretty sweet looking. Some of the others in this display just looked like more of the same same aerodynamic takes on mini vans and "jelly bean" shapes as you suggested.

naperlou
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Re: Auto industry has done a real turnaround
naperlou   1/20/2012 10:56:58 AM
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Yes, there are a lot of neet looking innovations and electronics.  On the other hand, the real need as far as vehicles go is efficiency.  The most promising trend I saw was the Caillac ATS lighjweight frame.  What is really interesting about it is the aluminum components.  I had a 1969 MGB with an aluminum hood to save weight.  That was long ago.  Actually, after the oil shocks in the 1970s, we went to front wheel drive cars and the car companies started advertising the coefficient of drag of their cars.  Then along came SUVs ad heavy safety equipment (which is a good thing).  We need to start thinking about how to make cars lighter and more efficient again.  We also need to stress these technologies on larger vehicles.  The buying public prefers them.  All these small electric and hybrid cars really don't make much of a dent.

On the electronics front, i really doubt the utility of all the electronics.  I was in a car a little bit ago.  It was a new Lexus, I think.  The driver had all the warnings turned on.  We were going a couple of miles in a large city.  The car was talking to him all the time, warning him.  We were deep in conversation and he was ignoring the car the whole time.  It was really a strange, and not so pleasant experience.

williamlweaver
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Re: Styling Changes
williamlweaver   1/20/2012 1:26:51 PM
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Alex, I'm wondering if we are stuck with the jellybean shape for a while. I recall the X-32/X-35 Joint Strike Fighter competition in which Lockheed claimed its X-35 had an advantage over the X-32 because it looked like "a next-generation fighter". The X-32 had a radical design that ultimately did not win for a host of reasons. But I'm wondering if its looks doomed it from the get go. The cube cars made small inroads, but we are still waiting for the era of mass customization. With the economy being as it is, it looks like conservative, tried and true jellybean wins the day.

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Styling Changes
Jennifer Campbell   1/20/2012 2:39:16 PM
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I'd be surprised if the "sameness jellybean" factor didn't have something to do with automakers trying to keep costs down in some areas, especially when building hybrids and EVs. That being said, while cars like the charger are cool to look at, they are dangerous to drive; at least in my experience/opinion - wicked blind spots.

Rob Spiegel
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Generic looks
Rob Spiegel   1/20/2012 3:22:06 PM
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Nice slide show, Chuck. One surprising revelation is that generic look of a lot of the news cars. The Cadillac doesn't look very different from the Dodge Dart. That's a new twist from Detroit.


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Generic looks
Ann R. Thryft   1/20/2012 4:05:43 PM
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That explains it--thought I was looking at the same car from one EV/hybrid story to the next. They do seem to have pretty much the same shape. And to Jenn's point, I still think they're all too small to be safe.

Even as I write about more composites in cars to make them weigh less, to reach federal gas mileage goals, I keep wondering if they are too lightweight to be safe, not just in the crash-resistant sense, but if they are more likely to fly up in the air when hit.


Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Styling Changes
Alexander Wolfe   1/22/2012 10:02:07 AM
Bill, I think I heard this timeline description on some History channel show. Car design started off with the first cars being designed as analogues of houses (big square bodies). Then they looked like boats. Next came airplanes (for example, the "winged" fenders in the 1950s, and even now the cockpit-like consoles, and heads-up displays are coming). I'm not sure where today's combination jelllybeans and Fiats puts us. What would we call it? Maybe we're just in anti-design era.  As for aerospace, the flying wing would be so cool if only the could get it to work. I guess the B2 Stealth Bomber is indeed a flying wing. You gotta have a lot of computing power to keep that thing stable, though.

didymus7
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Re: Styling Changes
didymus7   1/23/2012 9:18:15 AM
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I supoose that the days of 'box' cars and cars with 'wings' were the days where nobody thought about wind resistance.  These days, I think we will live with very similar shapes because the MPG mandates make a low wind resistance necessary.  Does this mean that a lot of cars will look the same?  Seems to me that we are there now.  Until someone imagines something really radical that has MPG benefits.

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