The economy, politics, and the electric vehicle were hot conversational points during a Monday afternoon panel discussion among automotive industry thought-leaders.
Panelists described the current economy in glum words with one industry insider calling it a deep, deep recession. "This is a very difficult time for the automotive industry. We're looking at a very large ditch that we're in the middle of," Richard Goetz, International Practice Group Leader for Dykema, said during Monday afternoon's session in the SAE Executive Business Theater. The theme discussed centered on the topic, 'What Lies Over The Horizon'.
In certain respects, the industry is off its game. And one way to turn things around is to stop taking a backseat ride and return to the driver's seat. "Innovation and self-reliance are going to dig us out of this current economic mess," said David Hemmings, President and CEO of PRA Global Business Development.
Even in a bad economy, consumers and government policy makers need to address the addiction to oil. Hemmings said if gasoline prices went to $6 a gallon in the U.S., the public would "squeal" but higher gasoline prices would prompt change in buying behaviors.
Michael Granoff, Head of Oil Independence Policies for Better Place, said the U.S. could be well on its way to oil independence in 2020. He believes that consumers foregoing gasoline vehicles in favor of electric vehicles is possible in the next 10-11 years.
Hybrids are not the best answer, according to Granoff, because a vehicle with multiple drivetrains is not "going to drive down costs. The way to turn it around is one drivetrain, and that's electric." Michelle Krebs, Editor of Edmunds' AutoObserver, countered Granoff's 2020 optimism for electric vehicle domination. She said the internal combustion engine is here to stay for a while.