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Dec 30 2014

In light of the new year approaching and all the top 10 New Year's resolution lists/2015 predictions rolling out, we thought it'd be fun to write a News Year's article with a different twist.

When one thinks of New Year's resolutions, a handful of cliché personal goals come to mind. For many people, these goals often fizzle out halfway through the first month. Coincidentally, several of the most popular New Year's resolutions mirror the automotive industry's goals as they strive to meet more demanding regulations and keep up with the newest technologies available for the upcoming model year. 

So without further adieu, here are 5 New Year's resolutions for the personified vehicle:

1. Lose Weight


This is easily the most prevalent New Year's resolution of them all. We all want to shave off some extra weight after a holiday season packed with eating, celebrating, and then eating some more. 

Though OEMs are always looking to shave some lbs off their vehicles each year, it's not for the same reason. Lighter vehicles mean better fuel economy and better performance. Gas prices, while dipping in recent months, are still high, keeping fuel economy a primary criteria for many vehicle shoppers. In response to consumer needs, along with government MPG regulations, vehicle manufacturers continue to make their vehicles lighter by using different materials and/or offering smaller models.

Aluminum and carbon fiber composite are starting to grow as popular material options in the auto industry due to the significant weight savings they offer. Aluminum is definitely a more affordable option than carbon fiber but still more costly than mild steel. While it is not the cheapest material to manufacture with, the benefits aluminum offers already have some companies like Ford using it extensively for new models like the F-150. 

Only time will tell how standard carbon fiber and other light weight materials become, however aluminum's use in vehicle manufacturing is growing in 2015 and is likely to continue growing over the coming years.

2. Quit Smoking


Here's another popular New Year's resolution you've either made for yourself or heard friends and family commit to over and over again. What better time to turn over a new "smoke-free" leaf than at the start of a new year? 

Vehicle manufacturers make the same commitment each model year and in most cases are only able to scale down their smoking habits (emission levels) rather than fully quit. Some of the ways  in which auto manufacturers have reduced vehicle emissions are by offering more fuel efficient gas and diesel models, new clean diesel powertrains, as well as electric and hybrid models.

Can vehicles fully quit smoking? Well, that would require a "lifestyle change" with vehicles switching to an alternative fuel source such as hydrogen, to be used in fuel cells that only emit water, or to fully operate on electricity. Each of these options have their supporters and detractors, however the significant investments auto manufacturers continue to make in both technologies suggest they will become more prevalent in the near future.

3. Eat Healthier


As soon as the new year begins, it's time to detox from all the holiday cookies and New Year's Eve Chinese food (I will miss you dearly Chicken Lo Mein...). Many of us may associate the common New Year's resolution of eating healthier with the benefit of losing weight. However, there are many more benefits this commitment has to offer. 

For the personified vehicle, eating healthier obviously does not make the vehicle lighter, but is a much cleaner option for the environment and can increase the life of the vehicle. Vehicles that run off of alternative fuels like hydrogen, biodiesel, natural gas and ethanol can decrease emission levels, the consumption of non-renewable resources, and the harmful impact on the environment associated with their consumption and collection. In the case of biodiesel - a blend of petrodiesel and vegetable oil or animal fats - it not only offers cleaner emissions but also improve fuel lubricity thus increasing the engine's life.

Just as eating better leads to a healthier body, vehicles utilizing alternative fuels offer advantages and show promise in contributing to a healthier vehicle and a healthier environment. Though studies cannot confirm or refute, some biodiesel users also claim an increase in "Good Vibes", so these vehicles will have that working in their favor as well....

4. Drink Less


After one last hoorah for the year, it's time to tone it down a bit - lest you really go off the tracks. Remember, "Denial" ain't just a river in Egypt. Drinking less frequently helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle while saving money.

In terms of the personified vehicle, drinking less fuel means saving more money and less frequent fill-ups. After all, who wants to spend their money on fueling their car and their time filling it up? Some of the newer vehicles offer stop start technology that shuts off the vehicle while at a stand still rather than wasting fuel idling.  More efficient engines using turbochargers, superchargers, direct injection and higher compression ratios coupled with automatic transmissions with more gears than there are days in the week have contributed to much higher average MPG for traditional cars.  In addition, the widespread use of hybrid vehicles and increasing acceptance of electric powertrains have also helped decrease the amount fuel vehicles consume.  

These are some of the many ways vehicles look to reduce their drinking of both gas and alcohol (Flex Fuel) in 2015.

5. Learn Something New


It is never too late to learn new things and the new year is a good place to start! Life can get repetitive when we don't develop new skills.  As many of you can attest, new skills or hobbies generally don't become a reality unless we make plans to carry out the initial dream. 

In the same way, new vehicles require new technologies and features to attract consumers and solve challenges presented in previous years. One big advancement in the auto industry that comes to mind is the soon-to-arrive self-driving car. Many semi-autonomous features such as self-parking, automatic braking, lane keeping, and blind spot detection have already hit the market and are starting to become standard features that are more widely used - especially on non-luxury vehicles in 2015.

The auto industry is constantly evolving each year with cutting-edge technology and soon enough will have vehicles that do all the work, perhaps even supplying an autonomous backseat driver to second guess all the decisions of the autonomous driving system.

What's In Store For the 2016 Vehicle Models?

Though we're just approaching 2015, it's old news for most of the automotive industry! Manufacturers are on to creating even more advanced cars for the 2016 model year. Reflecting on the personified vehicle New Year's resolutions, how will OEMs reduce weight, lower emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and top last year's technology advances? Please share in the comments section below!


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Photo Credits: Ronny Richert  Tayla Lyell

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