Josh Bolinger: Driving for the Future
Cars can change the world.
Of course, they already have, but now, it’s time for them to do it again.
The automobile industry is one of the few places where you see constant innovation and change. Market forces push the car companies to make something new every year. We see improvements in safety, reliability, mileage, emissions, and innovations in manufacturing designed to drive quality and lower price. It’s a huge volume business with good profits and global competition.
There’s a lot of power there, and it can lead to massive changes in our world and in how we interact with our environment. The car companies can see that in order to stay in business for any kind of long-term, they are going to need to become cleaner, and we see them moving in that direction all the time.
That’s a lesson every manufacturing business in the world should take. If you’re in the business of making things, and you haven’t started driving your business in a direction that is cleaner and wiser, you’re driving your own future obsolescence. Because it’s not just about environmentalism or climate – it’s about consumer demand.
There’s a reason Toyota decided to build the Prius, and a reason so many people buy that car. People who buy cars are making a big-ticket purchase, and they put a lot of thought into it, and a lot of them have children and are worried about what we are doing to the world we are leaving for the next generation. There is a real market for products that can reassure people they are not trashing the world just by getting themselves to work every day.
Frankly, I do not think hybrid or even all-electric vehicles are a solution at this point. Hybrid batteries are a huge source of pollution all on their own, and all-electric vehicles that are charged with electricity produced by burning coal just move emissions from your tailpipe to a smokestack. I am hopeful that hydrogen power may become a viable alternative, until we have an electrical grid that produces clean power for cars.
But the auto industry can teach us about a lot more than just power sources. The advancements they are making in materials science alone, in terms of lighter and more flexible materials, produced with recycled content and recyclable themselves, are an example to emulate. The innovations in electronics, in efficient manufacturing techniques, and in consumer safety show that there is a customer demand for cleaner, smarter, safer products.
Anyone in the business of manufacturing should tap into that market. It’s just good business.