One of the highlights for me at IESF for the past three years now has been Paul Hansen’s presentation. You may know that Paul is the editor and publisher of The Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics (http://hansenreport.com), a highly respected newsletter. IESF attendees this year are receiving a free, three-month subscription.
There has been a lot of negativity in the news lately, some of which touches on automotive electronics, so it was good to hear Paul report on the positive experiences of automotive suppliers. Nvidia, for example, offers “probably the most powerful computer even embedded in a vehicle” (its Tegra 2 multimedia computer-on-a-chip), and is expecting sales to grow by tenfold in the next three years. Hyundai Mobis, which has the advantage of supplying Hyundai and Kia, enjoyed a 13% sales gain last year and intends to become one of the world’s top five automotive parts suppliers by 2020.
Hansen was not as optimistic about prospects for electric vehicles. “Will U.S. consumers buy hybrid and electric vehicles in sufficient numbers? Unless the price of gasoline gets considerably higher than it is today, I don’t think they will, at least not without major subsidies from the government,” he said.
“What this fledgling U.S. electrification industry needs more than anything right now is a gasoline tax that keeps the retail price of gasoline at $4 per gallon, at the very least,” he added, and then cited CSM Worldwide estimates that at $4 a gallon it would take 6.1 years of fuel savings to pay for a hybrid’s added cost and 10.1 years of savings to pay for an electric vehicle’s additional cost.
“Cost reduction of the electrification components will help, but we have a long, long way to go,” Hansen warned.
Hansen wrapped up his IESF presentation by providing his take on Toyota.
“Reasonable people are wondering, if Toyota is having all of these scary problems—basic vehicle control problems—are electronics causing them? Are malfunctioning electronics at the root of Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem? Toyota says no, and I believe them,” Hansen said.
“Deaths per billion miles traveled in the United States have declined dramatically since the advent of automotive electronics: from a little over 41 in 1973 down to less than 13 in 2008,” he noted. “Automotive electronics has given us airbags, ABS, electronic stability control, brake assist, back up cameras, adaptive front lighting, tire pressure monitoring, and driver assistance systems, all of which contribute to driver, passenger and pedestrian safety.
“Automotive electronics is not the problem. It is the solution.”