How do car companies know what the world will want in five, 20, even 50 years’ time? If they’re Ford, they ask Sheryl Connelly, the Blue Oval’s head of trends and futuring. It’s Connelly’s job to figure out how the automotive landscape will change before it’s even thought about changing, to predict what the next big shift will be in the world of cars. A Michigan native who’s been at Ford for nearly 20 years, Connelly was last year named one of the most influential creatives in the world. So can she actually see into the future? And which horse should we back in next year’s Grand National? Top Gear caught up for a chat… — TG: So what does a futurist do? SC: A futurist does not predict the future. It takes at least three years to bring a vehicle to market, so even if we were to come up with an ingenious idea today, it would still take about 36 months for the rubber to hit the road. So, every day within Ford, we … [Read more...] about How to see into the future
Seeing into the future
The future has arrived. Back in the September issue of STREET RODDER, we told you about eight incredible under-construction cars that would be making their appearances in the months to follow. We called them “Street Rods of the Future.” Not exactly the prophecies of Nostradamus, but more of a sneak preview of some cool rides. Each of these vehicles was in-progress at various shops around the country. We had photographs of each of them in bare metal, which we published in that issue. Even so, it’s exciting when the cars we called “Street Rods of the Future” become the street rods of the present. One of those eight cars is this screaming orange 1955 Chevy 150 two-door sedan. It’s one of the most recent projects out of Ironworks Speed & Kustom in Bakersfield, California. When Rodger Lee, the owner of Ironworks, started the project several years ago, it was not commissioned by any customer. Rodger had discovered the car on craigslist and bought it in … [Read more...] about This 1955 Chevy Was Once a Glimpse Into the Future. Now It’s Here!
With hundreds of millions in investment at risk, you might expect the car industry to be knee deep in facts and figures. But its also has to chase demographic and behavioural change, both of which have recently switched into fast-forward mode. Twenty years ago, tastes were very slow to shift. Today, we’re seeing violent shifts in social trends across just a few years. For example, the UK market for city cars has leapt from 90,000 in 2005 to over 200,000 units last year, which means other market niches are seeing commensurate shrinkage. But car makers have to drill down much further than these top-line figures to reveal deeper trends. Some of them are counter-intuitive: one Skoda boss told me that apart from MPVs, city cars are the most likely type of vehicle to have children travelling in the rear seats. Such a revelation helped steer the styling of the Skoda Citigo, because potential purchasers want such a car to look as solidly-built as possible. It probably also drove the … [Read more...] about Fast-forward into the future
Mahindra Racing and Pininfarina have released three concept designs for a future Formula E racing car. These images are the product of a collaborative and creative project that offers fans a glimpse of the potential form of Formula E in the future. The release of these images follows the recent launch of the FIA Formula E tender to design and manufacture the chassis that will be used from season five onwards. To reduce costs, all teams will use the same chassis with the powertrain and software being open to development by the individual manufacturers. Commenting on the unveiling, Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group said: "Mahindra is a pioneer of EV technology that is always striving to push the boundaries of this exciting new form of mobility. Our participation in the Formula E championship gives us yet another platform to co-create the Future of Mobility. While these innovative designs are a creative project at this stage, I would be thrilled to see the M5Electro look … [Read more...] about Mahindra-Pininfarina’s sneak peek into the future of Formula E
Lamborghini has been researching carbon fiber for automotive use. The automaker felt confident enough in its ability to work with the high-tech material in 1985 that a team led by Maurizio Reggiani, now the Lamborghini Board Member in charge of Research and Development, crafted a revolutionary Countach with a chassis made almost entirely of hand-laid carbon fiber. The result was spectacular in that the car's chassis weighed about half of its all-metal counterpart.It turned out that first foray into carbon fiber was just as spectacular when it was finally tested for crashworthiness, but in a completely different way. Catastrophic would be an appropriate word, according to Paolo Feraboli, who now leads Lambo's brand-new Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory in Seattle, Washington.Proving how far Lamborghini has come since that ill-fated carbon-fiber Countach Evoluzione, Feraboli told us during the ACSL's grand opening that today's Aventador, which boasts a high-tech carbon chassis, … [Read more...] about Lamborghini’s path to the future is paved with forged composites
In the next few weeks, F1 junkies will see the kind of close-run drivers’ championship battle they’ve craved for nearly ten years. It’s highly likely that the remaining Grand Prix races will extend the competition to the very last race on the F1 calendar. Equally important, the end of the ‘06 season will signal the changing of the guard. Whether or not Michael Schumacher clinches the title, his retirement will signal the most dramatic shift in F1 in a generation.In the last dozen years, Michael Schumacher has completely dominated F1. To say the German competitor is an exceptionally talented driver is like saying Albert Einstein was a halfway decent physicist. Schuey may not have won every title during his reign, but his presence has exerted an enormous influence on the sport since his first race at Spa-Francorchamps. Other drivers have risen from the ranks to take races and titles away from Schumi: Mika Hakkinen, Jacques Villeneuve, and Ayrton Senna, to name a … [Read more...] about F1: Schumacher Takes F1 Back to The Future
Within the Renault-Nissan alliance, Carlos Ghosn must have felt like he was the king. He and Louis Schweitzer were the architects of the fourth largest car making entity in the world. Then the Board of Directors chopped his legs out by vetoing his deal with Roger Penske to supply Saturn with Renault cars and, suddenly, Carlos Ghosn had a very sharp lesson. In the Renault-Nissan alliance, no-one is too big to fail. So when it came to his re-election as CEO, no-one thought it was a cut and dried affair. Well, on Thursday the 29/04/2010, Mr Ghosn received his second term at Renault. And he set out some targets to show the BoD he means business.Reuters reports that over his next 4 year term, Ghosn envisions the following:1. The target for 2010 is positive free cash flow. This target shouldn’t be too difficult as Renault owns a hefty 21.8% stake in Volvo trucks. If Ghosn can keep his cool and sell the stake at the right time (the heavy duty truck market is picking up speed … [Read more...] about Into The Future With Nostra Carlos
Back in junior high in the late 1960s, we had an assignment to write about “the good life in the year 2000”. Since I regularly read magazines like Popular Science and Mechanics Illustrated, it wasn’t too hard to put something together about edible silverware (didn’t happen) and microwave ovens (did). Perhaps that’s why I like the site Retro Future so much. There’s something meta about looking back into the past at how people looked forward into the future. While researching the Brooks Stevens Studebaker concepts I came across this 1963 clipping from the Milwaukee Journal. Stevens was based in Milwaukee and his hometown paper reported on a panel at the SAE congress in Detroit which featured Stevens and Richard Teague, who was by then the head of styling for American Motors after stints at Chrysler, GM and Packard. Stevens worked as a contract designer for a variety of non-automotive companies in addition to his work for Studebaker. The topic of the … [Read more...] about Forward Into the Past Into the Future – Brooks Stevens & Dick Teague Predict the 1970s from 1963
The advent of eight-track tape in the 1960s, followed by cassettes and later compact discs and even hard drives, brought the era of locally stored media to the car. But even as each new medium replaced the previous generation, radio frequency transmission has remained a constant and is likely to for many decades to come. Through the 20th and now into the 21st century, AM has been augmented by FM and, more recently, satellite radio.The common thread among all those radio technologies was that they only went in one direction: from a tower or satellite to your car. Now, thanks to wireless broadband technologies, our mobility platforms can send as well as receive radio signals. Outside the car, we increasingly get audio and video content streamed through our smartphones wherever we happen to be. We can use those mobile devices to select our content, set up playlists, or just consume content curated by someone else.“The digital revolution and content will change the car more in the … [Read more...] about The Internet Will Propel In-Car Entertainment FAR into the Future
Yesterday, we met Toyota Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso in his office in Toyota City. He is responsible for all new technology at Toyota. Yesterday, we talked mostly about the past. Now, we talk about the future.When I ask Ogiso what car we will be driving in the future, he whips out a chart. It’s a chart which I call “Peak Oil 2.0.”There are many versions of this chart. The one used by Toyota says that we have been living with a small gap since 2005. Experts generally agree that the gap will become a serious problem in the 2015-2020 time-frame. In the world of an auto engineer, 2015 is today. With a lead time to 3 to 5 years, auto manufacturers around the world better have their act together now and answers to how that gap will be filled.Satoshi Ogiso has the answer, and many will not want to hear it: “To control this gap, we must go multi track. We must improve gasoline and diesel engines. We must increase the number of hybrid models. We must produce the … [Read more...] about Toyota’s Prius Chief Engineer Reveals The Future Of The Automobile. Part Two: What Will We Drive In 10 Years?