Whether you are a passionate engineer, a car enthusiast, or you simply happen to be in the Detroit area this week, you may want to make a stop at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
I had the opportunity to visit during the industry preview and found plenty of interesting content for my car-geek palate. My visit started at the Ford display, where I experienced nostalgia for when I worked with Ford engineers to enhance manufacturing productivity. The team brought a portion of the all-new 2015 F-150 assembly line to the booth, bringing a hint of what a modern plant looks like to the auto show. The F-150 area was also a rather unlikely place to start my journey into lightweight design, but the new F-150 features a military-strength aluminum body, making the “built tough” Ford truck heavy duty yet more efficient than ever.
Speaking of lightweight design, it is evident that new materials like laminated composites and reinforced plastics are gaining importance in mainstream automotive products. If the all-carbon-fiber body structure of the 2015 BMW i8 were not enough, at the ZF booth I was pleased to find production-ready composite knuckles and plastic pedal boxes.
Fuel efficiency remains a perennial focus at the show. It looks like diesel engines will finally find a place in the North American market, brought to us by the “usual suspects”: BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Volkswagen. Even the American automakers have begun exploring diesel technology, as evidenced by the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500. Chrysler is also introducing a brand-new 9-speed transmission to help fuel efficiency in its 2015 Chrysler 200, which celebrated its world premiere at the show. Toyota took a different approach, introducing a very interesting concept for a Fuel Cell vehicle.
What most visitors look for at any auto show globally are shiny, boldly designed concept cars, and the 2014 NAIAS does not disappoint. From the Volvo XC Concept to the ever-beautiful Corvette Stingray, which was the star of last year’s show, you will find the car of your dreams. My very personal Best in Show design? A stunning 1932 Lincoln KB Dietrich Coupe, brought to Detroit from the Gilmore Car Museum. Beauty is timeless.