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Cutting-edge tech, EVs lead industry trends

Things I learned about the car industry at the annual conference of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association:

– Ignore the reports about price cuts on the slow-selling Nissan Leaf, or the latest weak sales of the Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius V.

“The future is electric,” says Franz Loogen, president of e-Mobil, a German state agency that promotes research into electric vehicles.

Like Canada’s Auto21, Loogen’s agency knows because it supervises research worth hundreds of millions of euros annually in Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to Stuttgart and the cradle of the world’s auto industry (Volkswagen, Porche, Mercedes-Benz, Bosch, Mahle, etc.).

The German car companies all used to scoff at the idea of hybrid or electric cars. Now all of them are building them or plan to launch them shortly.

– The media is full of reports about Tesla, Tesla, Tesla right now, but the low-volume luxury carmaker is just the tip of an enormous iceberg most consumers don’t even realize is moving below the surface of the industry. It’s all electric.

“Innovation is exploding right now,” says Gary Smyth, the Irishman who is executive director of global research and development for GM. “The industry is in a period of rapid transformation.”

– It takes 15 to 20 years to turn over the entire fleet of 300-million-plus cars in Canada and the United States, but the technological changes that will take place in the next turnover will set up the industry for the next 50 years, says J.E. (Ted) Robertson, senior technical adviser to Magna International Inc.



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