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Car Makers Woo Younger Buyers With Technology

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Google Fully Functional Self-Driving Car; artist's rendering, courtesy of Google

Google’s fully functional self-driving car; artist’s rendering courtesy of Google

Most analysts believe that if car makers want to get young people — who drive about 23% less than their age group used to — to buy cars, they will “need to shrink cars into, well, iPhones,” writes BBC Business reporter Kim Gittleson from the Detroit Auto Show. She quotes Gary Silberg, national automotive sector leader at KPMG, a consultancy:

‘If you look at the buying decisions of the younger generation, they’re a little worried about the navigation system that gets you from point A to point B, but mainly they’re interested in texting and being able to communicate with their friends.’

Silberg added that the car makers who get that right will be the winners. In a very upbeat article about the Detroit Auto Show, Alisa Priddle reports, among other things, that General Motors CEO Mary Barra expects younger and first-time car buyers “to return to the market.”

According to the consulting group Machina Research, although only about 10% of cars are connected to the Internet today, by 2020 that percentage is expected to be 90%, Gittleson reports. Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at MIT’s AgeLab, and associate director of the New England University Transportation Center, told Gittleson that there is a battle going on between tech giants like Google and Apple and car makers like Mercedes and General Motors for who will be behind the software that enables cars to be online.

The questions raised by car makers, Gittleson writes, include:

Do we really want to be able to update Facebook while on the go? Or would we settle for being able to sync our Pandora playlists while in traffic?

And then of course there is the possibility that all of this might be made semi-irrelevant by the introduction of driverless car technology, which would free up our hands altogether.

Ben Geier writes for Fortune that GM is open to partnering with Google on developing a self-driving car, according to GM’s Chief Technology Officer Jon Lauckner. Google’s fully functioning driverless car prototype, introduced last month, does not look like a typical GM car, Geier writes: “[I]t looks more like something you’d see in a 1960s science fiction movie.”

Geier writes that it would make sense for those two corporate giants to work together because GM makes cars that people want to buy and Google has a great ability “to innovate and push the technology envelope.” Lauckner told Geier that GM will need to figure out how such a collaboration would work.


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