When it comes to nailing down the biggest trends of the 2013 Canadian International AutoShow, Tom Tonks can pinpoint two: Mode of energy and interactivity.
The show’s long-standing general manager has seen trends come and go in the 31 years he’s been running the event, but the changing ways cars are powered has been the biggest one for the last two or three years.
And it’s what a number of event attendees are looking for when it comes to information they are seeking out.
“We’re looking at some serious revolutionary changes,” he said in how manufacturers are investing in new technologies. “Hybrid, plug-in, diesel and technology changes to gas-powered cars, people are really interested in knowing more about these vehicles hitting the market.”
When jumping from one manufacturer’s booth to the next in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s north and south buildings, visitors can see carmakers are highlighting how they’re changing the way their cars are powered.
Go to the Eco-Drive exhibit and it’s obvious manufacturers across the industry are investing in cars for not only the environmentally conscious driver, but for a future where the eco-friendly car could be the norm.
“There’s a real focus on making cars more environmentally friendly,” Tonks said. “We’ve been continuing on that (promoting it with the Eco-Drive exhibit).
The industry is focused on improving the quality of power trains, said Ford spokeswoman Chantel Bowen.
“We focus on the power choice so we have several different powertrains to check out,” she said. “The hybrids, our battery electric vehicles and our different gas engines.”
Ford unveiled the new Fiesta ST and the 2014 Transit and Transit connect wagon, all with eco-friendly systems.
“They’re going to be hot cars because they’re brand new,” she said. “We’re focused on fuel economy.”
Vehicles are also becoming more and more of an extension of the home, said Tonks. Communication and interactivity between the automobile and its driver and passengers has risen to new levels. Bowen added there is a real focus on this not just for adding new features, but also for safety.
“A lot of the features are voice activated so you always have your eyes on the road and with a push of a button, you can (use your voice to) change the temperature, set your destination or put on the defrosters,” Bowen said of the My Ford Touch technology in Ford vehicles. “In today’s world, everyone has smartphones that can be distracting so we went with voice command.”
While Ford is focused on improving the overall driver experience while keeping high safety standards in its vehicles, all manufacturers are trying to keep up with the times.
“All brands are trying to keep up with social media and everyone wants the hottest gadget, so we’re trying to be more innovative and find better technology to make consumers’ lives enjoyable and easier,” she said.
With each manufacturer trying to keep up with what the market offers and wants, Tonks said it’s keeping the industry competitive. That also means manufacturers can’t afford to skimp on quality.
“There is no such thing as the throwaway car anymore,” he said. “The pricing is competitive and there is sacrifice of quality for price.”