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Fast Lane

Great to be Back Reinventing the Wheels

This issue marks the completion of the first year since Diesel & Gas Turbine Publications acquired Automotive Industries magazine. We’ve accomplished a great deal, but lots of interesting work lies ahead.

When people ask me what we are all about I always say we “reinvent the wheels.” We also use the phrase on a lot of our promotion material. I’ve been criticized for using it too much. “It’s so trite, Rob,” I’ve been told. But I have earned the right to be obstinate once in a while and I can’t think of a better way to explain what we do.

So I got a good chuckle earlier this year at the New York Auto Show when Trevor Creed was introducing the Chrysler 300C concept car. His springboard for the intro was “We Reinvent The Wheels.” Hey, maybe I’m not crazy after all.

If Chrysler has taken nearly 50 years to go from the real-wheel drive 300C of the 1950s to the front-wheel drive 300M of the 1990s and back to rear-wheel drive today for the new 300C and everyone seems quite happy with that, then I believe my pet adage fairly describes what this industry is working so hard to accomplish. To the maxim “they don’t build ’em like they used to,” I say thank God. Look at the durability of engines, for example. In part, emission regulations have played a role by making it impossible for anyone to build a crummy engine.

An acquaintance of mine hangs onto an ’87 Cherokee with 250,000 miles and says it may need a valve job soon. At this point, engines are far more bulletproof than the cars, which have also made great strides.

And we will continue to make progress with this process of reinventing the wheels. Look at the progress made with automotive diesels in Europe. Driven largely by fuel prices, these advancements will find their way to the U.S. — sooner rather than later if fuel prices continue to spike as they have at summer’s end.

Responding to market pressures is what drives us to reinvent the wheels and the motivation gets interesting when paying $35 to fill the tank. The hydrogen economy isn’t going to parachute out of the sky today or tomorrow and hybrids require too much re-engineering to apply in great volume.

These H2 and hybrids programs are interesting and vital work is being done, but it is five parts environmental posturing and one part an investment in the future. As DCX’s Bernard Robertson recently said recently of turbine, Wankel, and PROCO engine programs of the past, “The need to be seen as a technology leader simply subordinated the reality.”

So let’s not get blinded by the light as we reinvent the wheels and please continue joining us here at Automotive Industries for the latest spin.

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