Auto Show Pits New Electrics vs. More Efficient Engines


Automotive production represents the largest sector of U.S. manufacturing. According to the Auto Alliance, it’s responsible for about 3.5 percent of the country’s GDP and employs more than 7.25 million Americans – with more than five million of those jobs focused on vehicle, parts, or automotive accessory manufacturing.

And that’s not counting the additional impact on companies that make general connectors, components, and other products used in automotive production. My point is that the trends emanating from events like the recently concluded L.A. Auto Show can have a far-reaching impact on U.S. manufacturing.

The poster child for the event might have been the 2018 Jeep Wrangler. It symbolized a number of key themes that were prevalent throughout the show:

  • The growth of crossovers and SUVs.
  • The addition of interior creature comforts.
  • Enhanced underhood efficiency.
  • The continued expansion of electric vehicle technology.

The new Wrangler still offers that rugged appeal but has been updated with a state-of-the-art infotainment system, as well as power steering and suspension upgrades, so you don’t need arms like The Rock if you want to drive off-road, and there’s even a plug-in hybrid model in the works for 2020.

The energy push was evident not only in the number of electric vehicle offerings but with companies like Tesla and Mercedes also touting their solar-powered home energy batteries.

However, perhaps the most impressive energy improvement on display was Infiniti’s QX50. The CUV is the first production vehicle to feature The VC or variable compression turbo engine. This new design which can alter piston reach, allows the compression ratio to change between a performance-oriented 8:1 to a more fuel-efficient 14:1.

The result is more speed (268 horsepower) from a smaller 2.0-liter engine, and fuel efficiency marks in the 27-mpg range. It will be interesting to see how such internal combustion engine technology impacts the development of smaller cars and electric vehicles.

On the other end of the price spectrum is the Range Rover SVAutobiography, which shows that luxury and power still trump fuel efficiency for many. The SVA is the most expensive Range Rover ever built, housing a 557-horsepower supercharged V8 that retails for a mere $208,000.

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