Tuesday, December 9, 2008

American Automakers: A Greener Tomorrow?

The NY Times recently discussed that a deal to rescue the big 3 American automakers is finally moving ahead. Now the real question is what will the auto bailout plan do to spark innovation for these troubling automakers?

Ford might have stepped in front of the other 2 American automakers by taking a stern step towards producing greener cars as mentioned on this post on BusinessWeek. Ford plans to release the company’s first hybrid sedan, the Ford Fusion, early next year. This will be the first of many digitally savvy “green” vehicles that Ford hopes to make during the upcoming years. To help with their new designs, Ford has enlisted the help of the design firm IDEO, from Palo Alto California.

You might remember IDEO from one of our older posts in which we highlighted how the company helped Bank of America listen to what its customers wanted, and helped BOA roll out the “Keep the Change” initiative. In Ford’s case, IDEO conducted extensive research on three dozen driving habits throughout 2006.

Steve Bishop, IDEO's global lead of sustainability mentioned, “Our big finding was that drivers interested in fuel efficiency were playing a game. They want a high score."

Ford has done a couple of things with the dashboard in order to play into research that consumers are looking for a high score when it comes to fuel efficiency. They’ve created prototype dashboard concepts that resemble NASA flight simulators and LCD screens that will feature curling lines with green leaves. This adds a new design element that we’ve not yet seen in hybrid cars yet.

Toyota is still the industry leader in hybrid vehicles having sold more than 1 million Priuses worldwide. It will be interesting to see Ford step away from playing catch-up and really focus on taking the spotlight with these innovative designs.

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