Although the auto industry is strong and growing, there are still challenges to address, specifically the incorporation of new technology for sustainability and the need to improve passenger experience, panelists said during the discussion Key industry trends: Fuel efficiency & driver experience at Mexico Automotive Summit 2016.
“Energy efficiency is the largest challenge the automotive sector is facing,” said Eugenio Grandio, Charging Manager at Tesla Mexico. “A reason for this is that boosting safety and improving passenger experience often go hand in hand with added weight, which in turn raises fuel use.”
Internal combustion is still the largest power source worldwide so it is necessary to keep investing in R&D to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, but the main challenge, said moderator Eduardo Solís, Executive President of AMIA, is to find the balance between energy efficiency, passenger comfort and safety.
Several years ago green cars were a novelty, now the world is demanding more green cars. One barrier to penetrating the Mexican market is infrastructure. “Some people do not buy electric cars because they do not know where to charge them,” said Grandio.
It is a bit of a vicious cycle. “Few invest in generating electric infrastructure because there are few electric cars, but people do not buy electric cars because there is no infrastructure to charge them, said Grandio. Incentives are needed for the acquisition of hybrid and green automobiles both for personal use and for public transportation.
One area is seeing improvement: pollution due to transport. “The automotive industry invests over US$100 billion in R&D to reduce emissions,” said moderator Eduardo Solís, Executive President of AMIA. The real problem, he pointed out, does not originate with new cars but from fleets that are 16 years old. Mexico still imports used and old cars, making it necessary to implement public policy that drives the renewal of these fleets. Radek Jelinek, President and Director General of Mercedes-Benz México, agreed that new sustainability practices are necessary, noting the public is behind this push. “New technologies are facilitating global communications, helping users to pressure manufacturers and governments to implement sustainability practices,” he said.
These trends are spreading across brands and segments. Martin Josephi, Director General of Aston Martin, Lamborghini & Morgan Mexico, said that even the luxury car segment is adopting these technologies even though their numbers are too small to have a significant impact on the environment. He said that Lamborghini is increasingly incorporating technology to improve fuel economy while Aston Martin is planning the introduction of an electric car. Trends like these ultimately impact drivers. “These technologies go beyond sustainability and can also be used to improve passenger experience,” said Josephi.
Autonomous driving has grabbed headlines in the past year and panelists suggested it was a way to improve road safety. Grandio pointed out that autonomous cars solved the problem of distracted drivers. “The car will always focus on driving but humans not so,” he said. Other benefits include in shorter commutes. “By making cars ‘talk’ to each other we can reduce commutes by 50 minutes in Mexico City,” said Jelinek about new systems to help cars communicate.
The panelists concluded that new technologies will keep the sector moving forward. “The future is autonomous and electric,” Jelinek said, “Ten years ago we believed that autonomous driving would be impossible, now they are here.”