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A week of financial news could contain the seeds of recovery.
The Society of
Automotive Engineers brings its annual meeting and exposition to Detroit this
week, and it promises to generate some excitement for the first time in several
Major companies such Lear,
Continental, Bosch, Delphi, and Visteon are all planning events or exhibits. In
addition, the rising cost of fuel, which is pushing towards $3 per gallon, and
the rising pressure for better fuel economy, have put some new energy into the
The National Highway
Transportation Safety Administration’s new fuel economy rules for light trucks
and sport-utility vehicles are certain to be a major topic of conversation at
this week’s meeting, which is expected to attract some 35,000 visitors from
around the world to Detroit’s Cobo Hall this week. The future of both oil
supplies and of alternative fuels and developments in diesel engines are among
the key topics on the SAE agenda this week.
Safety is another major concern,
as the annual SAE meeting is one of the world’s biggest showcases for the latest
developments in safety technology. Nearly half the SAE attendees say vehicle
safety is a “very important” attribute on which consumers are willing to spend
money, according to a survey by DuPont, which also will have a presence at the
show. Occupant detection, airbags, and collision avoidance are three technical
areas that will get a lot of attention in the next few years, said Michael
Sanders, the global director for DuPont Automotive Safety.
“While passive safety improvements
are still necessary, the development focus is clearly on active electronic
safety systems such as radar and electronic stability control in crash
avoidance,” he added.
The SAE exposition has been a huge
target for the cost-cutters at various supplier companies that had propped up
the exposition and enlivened the whole event. Over the past couple of years,
however, more suppliers have reconsidered attendance at SAE. Challenges such as
rising fuel prices and the need to control costs have increased the interest in
this year’s sessions.
Several companies, such as
OsramSylvania, Mann+Hummel, and FEV Technologies, have already announced they
will be showing off new technology during this year’s show.
“The demands on our industry today
are greater than ever,” notes Robert Last, FEV vice president of operations and
communications. “Success is now measured not by our ability to innovate
new technologies, but our ability to bring those new technologies to the
street,” Last added.
The U.S. Army and Quantum Fuel
Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc. of Irvine, Calif., plan to unveil a
hydrogen-hybrid demonstration vehicle. Using a Ford Hybrid Escape as the
demonstrator platform, the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and
Engineering Center is working to pair hybrid electric vehicles with a hydrogen
delivery and storage system. The technology has the potential to offer a
cost-effective alternative to fuel-cell-powered vehicles, according to the
“Currently one of the biggest
vehicle technology focuses for the Army is alternative energy, both hybrid and
fuel cell. Although the Army has set standards for Future Fleet hybrid energy
use, we are looking at many industry solutions to infuse into the Current
Fleet,” said Paul Skalny, TARDEC’s acting director.
The SAE meeting this year also will put more emphasis on collaboration. Chris Murphy, the director of the automotive business at DuPont, said collaboration across the automotive engineering fraternity makes sense. “There is no doubt that everyone in the industry is experiencing dramatic changes in technology and in the way we work with each other. By working collaboratively to address intense challenges we can surface innovative, sustainable solutions.”