Auto Industry Drives Toward Sustainable Profits

How sustainable trends in automobiles can and should apply to all businesses

The auto industry was initially slow to adopt green-friendly technology. Now, however, even without government regulation, that’s quickly changing. New cars and trucks are proving that customers are willing to vote with their wallets. Other industries would be wise to follow the lead of automakers – or miss out on customers who increasingly appreciate sustainable technologies.

The big news from the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is that the auto industry has stopped waiting for governments to enact energy policy. It’s taking the initiative to fill the void in government policy by launching price-competitive cars and trucks that meet consumer expectations on fuel costs, energy independence and human health. Consumers are voting with their pocketbooks in support of the industry’s efforts sending car and truck sales to record levels not seen since the Great Recession. The following are three examples from the 2014 NAIAS that demonstrates how non-auto businesses can use sustainable best practices to win customers.

Trucking On

Ford Motor Company stole the technology innovation spotlight at the 2014 NAIAS with the launch of an aluminum body F-150 pickup truck. Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally called it the “smartest F-150 ever.” It’s also a bet-the-company move because the F-150 is not only Ford’s best selling vehicle, but also the top selling vehicle in the U.S. The risk confronting Ford is whether mid-America consumers will buy a truck that uses 21st-century technologies to deliver 20th-century expectations for size, hauling capacity and acceleration.

The Ford executives I met with at the show went out of their way to emphasis that the aluminum used in the F-150 is military grade and is more dent resistant than steel. The use of aluminum allowed Ford to cut 700 pounds in vehicle weight without reducing the dimensions of the F-150’s full size.

This lower weight also improves hauling and towing capacity. Ford is also offering a range of more fuel-efficient engines, including an EcoBoost 2.7-litre four cylinder that promises to deliver V-8 horsepower plus best-in-class fuel economy. With the F-150, Ford has set the auto-industry standard for technology innovations, delivering a sustainable triple-bottom solution that’s good for consumer wallets, better for the environment and fun to drive.

Fit for the Future

I attended Honda’s introduction of the 2015 Fit conducted by John Mendel, executive vice president, Automobile Sales, American Honda Motor Co. The event was standing-room-only. This magnitude of media interest was amazing for a compact car. But it was well earned, because Honda’s reengineering of the Fit might represent how to move 20th-century automobile technology to its ultimate 21st-century potential.

auto sustainability Honda Fit

Honda’s superior engineering has made the Fit an inch and a half shorter while also increasing legroom by five inches and passenger volume by five cubic feet. The standard Fit comes fully equipped with 16-inch wheels, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and a rear view camera with normal, wide and top-down views. The Fit’s new engine generates 13 more horsepower and 8 pound-feet of torque compared to the last model’s engine.

The Fit’s combination of more power, lightweight body and improved aerodynamics achieves 33 city and 41 highway, with a combined 36 miles per gallon fuel performance using regular gasoline. This superior level of fuel performance is achieved with a combustion engine without hybrid technologies. Sensing it has a sales winner, Honda has built a factory in Mexico to fulfill North American sales. What Honda has achieved is a price-competitive car that aligns with consumers’ search for products that deliver value, performance, a ton of standard features plus reduced emissions.