The cars on display at the annual gathering on the Monterey Peninsula in California teach us about the auto industry’s history.
And its future.
During the Pebble Beach Concours competition, cars that attract great attention and affection have a few common attributes. Their designs broke the mold. Or their engineering involved new approaches that stretched the envelope of auto performance. Or both.
And, they were the products of ambitious and ingenious entrepreneurs running small companies—often bearing their names—whose influence vastly outlasted and exceeded their production volumes.
That continues today. The descendants of those small companies are with us. Even if they’re part of a much larger company, they retain extraordinary independence on resources, technology, and products. And they’re being joined by many small (for now), new companies that want to be part of our industry’s future.
Within Global Automakers we’ve established a Small Volume Manufacturers (SVM) council. Our SVMs – Ferrari, McLaren, and Aston Martin – don’t have large manufacturing operations on every continent. But the U.S. is their most important market, and they sell their cars everywhere in the world. So recent trade disputes and tariff threats are clear matters of concern. As are emissions and safety standards, and other requirements set by government policies.
Today’s small manufacturers continue to fulfill an established role: they prove the value of their innovations and provide a gateway to widespread adoption and mass production.
Some of those innovations were developed for competition – to win races – before going into cars built for customers. They’ve included many innovations that are now commonplace: disc brakes, aluminum construction, fuel injection, turbocharging, and much more.
Today’s small volume manufacturers have developed highly efficient internal combustion and hybrid powertrains that deliver more power with lower energy consumption. They’ve pioneered the use of carbon fiber and composites, which aid efficiency (by reducing weight) and improve safety (because of their enormous strength in protecting vehicle occupants).
As the auto industry moves toward electrification and increasingly automated and connected vehicles, the industry has attracted new entrants and investment – much of which will also be on display during Monterey’s car week. We’ll be there, and we’ll stay at the center of the major policy discussions affecting the modern U.S. auto industry.