Efficient cars, alternative fuels, lightweight materials and innovation, all pointing the way to the auto industry’s future.
On the heels of giant North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, I traveled by train, plane and automobile to the New England Auto Show. This annual show, held last week at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, offered a chance to thoroughly examine the hottest cars – even drive some of them – without the massive crowds that define NAIAS.
AGirlsGuidetoCars partnered with Chevrolet to bring a group of local influencers to the show and one of the highlights was a personal tour with James Bell, the Head of Consumer Affairs for General Motors.
To show us the trends in the automotive industry right now, James took us on a tour of the whole show, including the displays of other manufacturers.
Unless you are a car geek or a dyed-in-the-organic-wool environmentalist, you likely don’t know that by 2025, cars have to more than double their fuel economy. So BMW, Ford and Toyota aren’t necessarily making a green push for eco consciousness – they are federally mandated to do so.
Green goes luxury: saving money on fuel by investing in quality
But those of us who like to make green choices now have a plethora of vehicles to choose from, across luxury and basic platforms, and in small, mid-size and even large cars.
James told us that car companies have three ways to increase fuel economy: through smaller engines, lighter cars or electrification. He gave us examples of each throughout the show.
James showed us the BMWi3, whose carbon fiber body he called “very strong, very light and very very expensive.” But even with today’s extremely low gas prices, fill ups still add up, and the all electric car requires no gasoline at all.
Hyundai is a brand James said is on the rise, an assessment we agree with: the improved Sonata gets 38 mpg and offers luxury at a value price.
We drooled over the luxurious Cadillac ELR, a high-end entry in to the electrified market that sacrifices none of the comfort and great looks that luxury buyers demand, while making a smaller footprint.
SUVs designed for the city: small and packed with conveniences
Another important trend we saw at the Boston Auto Show was urban SUVs. City dwellers love these: sometimes city streets can be just as challenging as rural roads (potholes = road ruts). Honda and other auto makers are developing SUVs smaller than their current models, while Chevrolet has just introduced its version: the Trax. Small and versatile, the Trax is easy to park, maneuverable for parallel parking and u-turns, and all its seats fold flat for hauling stuff.
We got to meet Betsy Flegg, marketing manager for Trax who worked her way up through General Motors as an engineer. One of her favorite features on the Trax is its phone-based infotainment system: maps, apps, music and more live on customers phones, not the in-car computer. This means customers can update the system and customize it to their own liking. She also likes that it comes with wifi and gets 31 MPG, taking Chevrolet in the direction of the fuel economy that will be needed in 10 years. Added to Chevrolet’s Volt, which has an electric battery that drives 40 miles on a charge (the gas engine kicks in after that), and more fuel efficient models like the Cruze diesel, Sonic and Spark, Chevrolet is focused on getting to its fuel efficiency goals, too. And to see this all, it was worth taking three modes of transportation to get to.