On the last press day ahead of the public events at the New York International auto show, the Media Center interviewed Dutch Mandel, associate publisher and editorial director of AutoWeek magazine, to see what consumers have in store as they enter the show this week.
Vehicle connectivity, applied with common sense, fuel efficiency and sustainability, were trends noticed by Mandel during the opening days of the show. He also pointed out the general increases in horsepower and more fuel efficiency, a "wonderful dichotomy for consumers."
Q1: Where are the trends in vehicle connectivity going?
Mandel: It's a function of today's society and I am not a big fan of the degree to which people seem to be disconnected in a connected world. I'm a big fan of driving if you are going to drive. We are going to places we don't even know yet. We are seeing the distracted drivers who are killing themselves left and right. And that is why I have difficulty with the notion of texting and driving or even cell phone use and driving. But, the way in which the automobile is speaking to other automobiles or speaking to mainframes that will diagnose cars, that is really fantastic for the consumer, and I'm excited about where that is going. That's the new performance, in many ways, of cars.
Q2: What about an intelligent highway system?
Mandel: For many people, the idea of an autonomous car is exactly what they want. They look at the car as a commodity, as a tool to get them to someplace, and they don't enjoy driving. I come from a different place. I love driving. So, I don't want to have a car drive for me. But, it would allow me to do things that commuters now in big cities when they are on a train are able to do, so I get that.
Q3: The 16-year-olds of today: What do they want from cars?
Mandel: There are some people who are saying the sky is falling because of the way in which we see the advancements of smart phones and smart connectivity, whether it's software, Facebook, Pinterest -- the way that people can speak to their friends or peers. When we were younger, we would go on a Saturday night in a parking lot and hang out -- in cars! I don't think it's going to signal the death knell of the automobile; at least I'm hoping that is the case. But what we can do to make cars more interesting to a younger generation is to include the connectivity, but to do it in a manner that is smart, that doesn't allow them to Facebook with a friend at 70 mph. It has to be meted out in an appropriate manner and I think consumers are beginning to understand this as death tolls rise on texting and driving, and I think manufacturers certainly understand that.
Q4: How important is sustainability to consumers?
Mandel: Everyday consumers care a little bit more about the world in which we live, I think. Whether it's in the plastic bottles that we drink from or in the lawnmowers we use. We hear about it and we know that we have to take care of this earth. The great thing that the auto manufacturers are doing, top to bottom, is looking at recyclability cradle-to-grave. It's not just recyclability. It's resource-ability. When you can use one-seventh the amount of energy to recycle a car, versus the energy it takes to take the metal out of the earth, you are doing a good thing. I think that manufactures know that, and that may have to be part of the education for consumers. When they know that, they will embrace it more.
Q5: In terms of the NY auto show, what trends have you noticed?
Mandel: I'm excited because it seems as though the "car" is exciting to people in NY. There are cars of great performance; there are cars of fuel economy. There is no one specific theme other than the fact that each and every vehicle out there is getting better fuel economy. There also is more horsepower. There are 70 cars available on the market that get more than 500 horsepower, and there are also cars that get more than 40 mpg. It's a wonderful dichotomy, and it's for the consumer.