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Creating future cars poses challenges

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Creating future cars poses challenges

Needs across globe will drive innovation, auto designers say

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Detroit -- In the future, not everyone will want vehicles as we know them today.

As megacities and congestion grow worldwide, future consumers will have little desire to spend their hard-earned money on a new car when parking is a challenge -- and an additional cost -- and wide-open highways for an enjoyable ride are rare. They'll see a scooter as a greater form of mobility.

It's a growing reality carmakers must consider in the development of future urban vehicles, a panel of automotive designers said Thursday at the Automotive Press Association's annual Auto Designer event.

The challenges of getting around in a megacity are "truly astounding" and require a new formula for personal transportation, said Scott Strong, global interior design director at Ford Motor Co.

Strong has experienced the different mindsets of consumers; in the United States, where he can't wait to get behind the wheel, and in other countries, where it's a relief to not be the driver. And he has a son in Melbourne, Australia, who Strong says is in no hurry to buy a car when mass transit is convenient.

How you view a car "varies depending on where you find yourself on the planet," Strong said.

Designers must keep their minds open and come up with modes of transportation to address these realities, while still offering vehicles that make a personal statement and are fun to drive, said Clay Dean, director of advanced design for General Motors Co.

It's a challenge for automakers who must also continue to design vehicles of all sizes for cities that don't have subways or high-speed rail and where the car remains the main means of both transportation and expression.

"The car is the biggest thing you can wear," said Larry Erickson, chair of the Transportation Design Department at the College for Creative Studies.

Among future scenarios is one in which consumers don't buy a single vehicle but instead purchase a mobility membership, which gives them access to a family or utility vehicle on the weekend and a two-seat electric vehicle or motorized scooter to navigate congested downtowns during the week, said Phil Zak, chief designer at Hyundai North America.

Looking ahead 10 years, the designers also envision an emancipation of design with electric vehicles that don't require large engine bays and long hoods.

And while the need to meet safety and emissions regulations has had a limiting effect on some aspects of style, Dean said his hope is vehicle design becomes braver, more exciting and not caught up in retro design.

There was a time to celebrate the golden times but it is time to create new classics, he said.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100514/AUTO01/5140350/1148/Creating-future-cars-poses-challenges#ixzz0nw84i5yD

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