Times change, yet some things stay the same. Detroit, Michigan is a city that has shaped the global automotive landscape for more than a century. Recently, tech shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, have increasingly become popular showcases for new and exciting automotive technology. Yet, according to PC Magazine, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is “the place to see the hottest concepts and newest models.”
The automotive showcase held annually in Detroit is perpetually recognized as one of the best auto shows in the world. It has been deemed “the premier auto event in the U.S.,” an event that features the newest and most revolutionary vehicles and signals larger trends in terms of consumer demand and industry direction. In past years, the classic Detroit “muscle car” ideal has been on full display. Power and speed were the priority at the time and the show’s themes reflected the public’s desire. While Detroit is still a vital hub in the automotive industry, the theme of the show has changed. According to ESPN, one of many publications covering the influential event, “Performance is still a major selling point in the American automotive market, but competition from attributes like efficiency, practicality and connectivity is getting stronger.”
It is somewhat surprising that as gas prices continue to allay fears at the pump, efficiency remains a top priority for consumers. History shows that gas prices are consistently inconsistent. An unrenewable resource is, by definition, growing scarcer daily. There was more petroleum in 1979, yet the United States instituted an “odd-even” rationing program, which restricted the purchase of gasoline for half of the population each day. More recently, gasoline prices hit a historic high less than four years ago when the national average reached $3.60 a gallon. The fact that the North American International Auto Show highlights efficiency is a testament to long memories and an understanding that gasoline is a vital, yet volatile, resource.
In past years, support of one automaker was akin to cheering for a favorite sports team. Bitter rivalries emerged and loyalties were pledged. Similarly, picking a vehicle’s color was a point of pride and a matter of personal preference. The advent of technology has shown that connectivity is king. A recent Autotrader.com study found that “77 percent of respondents said a vehicle with all the tech features they want is more important than the car’s color.” The study also found the brand of a vehicle is less important than the desired technology.
The North American International Auto Show is an opportunity for the automotive industry to display the best it has to offer. In doing so, the industry highlights its direction and the wants of consumers. The 2016 NAIAS highlights the fact that consumers continue to value efficiency and are increasingly bullish on connectivity and new technology in their vehicle purchases. Where do you see the industry headed in 2016 and beyond?