I decided to checkout the San Diego Car Show this year to see what the OEMs were highlighting for the 2013 model year. I was particularly interested in how alternative fuels and connected car were presented at the show. I was not disappointed at the show this year as these were prominent themes and key marketing messages at most of the OEM booths.
It seems all the OEMs are marketing their initial connected car offerings. Ford appears to be slightly ahead with the work it’s doing with Ford SYNC and its in-car ADAS applications for lane departure, headway, and collision warnings. But all OEMs have their toes in the water with this technology and were actively marketing the advantages and benefits of their systems primarily from an infotainment aspect rather than a safety or efficient driver aspect. The industry as a whole is still having trouble figuring out how to monetize these features and services from customers already exhibiting subscription fatigue.
On the alternative fuel and fuel efficiency front, the good news is all of the OEMs had some sort of electric, hybrid, or fuel efficiency message. While I was expecting to see fuel efficiencies up in the high 30’s to low 40’s, based on the commercials I’ve been seeing, the reality is they are in the low 30’s to high 30’s for the more fuel efficient models.
GM was showcasing its new Spark. When I first looked at this car I had high hopes for great range and moderate price from this micro car. Unfortunately, the range is roughly that of the Leaf with less room for about the same price. This car does have potential and I expect GM has plans for improving range performance and price. There is a high mileage gas version of the Spark as well, which might be the better option at this point. Another vehicle of note was the sleek looking Lexus hybrid concept car. This is probably the best looking hybrid I have ever seen. It would be great to see this car go into production as it would really give hybrids a whole new image.
Finally, there was a collection of CNG cars on display separately from the OEM booths, including a Camry, Accord, and Smart car that were running on CNG. The full breadth of alternative fuels were not shown to the public, which is unfortunate as this is a perfect opportunity to educate the public on what could be rather than what is.