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Redefining authenticity in cars

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 11, 2016

The predecessor A Ferrari LaFerrari outside the NYSE in 2014

Eco-conscious customers are driving change

Eco-consciousness is the mantra today for carmakers across the world. With consumers shifting preferences from artificial to simpler materials, companies are also changing gears to cater to these evolving lifestyle trends.

Ferrari, for instance, is set to unveil a limited edition open-top version of its hybrid LaFerrari sports car at the Paris Show in October. Sold out to collectors already even before being announced, the car has the same running gear and performance as the original LaFerrari albeit with a slight difference. Buyers will now get a choice of a soft/hard top made of carbon fibre.

The carbon fibre under body is combined with Kevlar to protect the structure from road debris. This material makes cars significantly lighter and helps reduce emissions. Incidentally, the minimalist cabin of the Ferrari 488 GTB launched in India this February extensively uses carbon fibre.

Car parts made of this material have been used for years, especially in Ferrari and McLaren. This is now equally true for new models like the BMW 7 series, Alfa Romeo 4C and Chevrolet Corvette Z06 which are featuring ultra light, yet expensive, carbon fibre elements.

Auto majors say it is the market which is driving this trend with buyers looking to embrace authenticity with their cars. While Ford points to "consumers shifting preferences from artificial to simpler form of materials and moving towards being more real, authentic and natural", Mercedes-Benz insists it is "new lifestyle trends from society at large that have influenced our choice of material."

In an emailed response, Roland Folger, Managing Director and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India said, "Consumers are quite particular not only about the authenticity of our cars, but also on the robust process and stringent quality of production that goes into building them.”

According to him, consumers want to know more about materials used in the car. Extensive research by the company has shown that they prefer to see use of sustainable options while not losing any of the aesthetics in vehicles.

"Our consumers are incessantly evolving and want to be aware about whatever commodities he/she consumes," adds Folger. Mercedes now takes into consideration sustainability, lifestyle, dietary trends like veganism as well as the demand for authentic materials.

“We do not use tropical wood (in the car) and have experienced an increasing trend for wide-pored wood because globally customers like to feel the authenticity of materials. We use material containing real wool and high-quality Nappa leather to ensure exclusivity," says Folger. Fellow German carmaker, BMW recently urged consumers to skip the wait for an electric vehicle by releasing television advertisements depicting its BMW 330e, a plug-in hybrid electric, at the ongoing Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. It wants to beat competitor Tesla’s Model 3 at its own game in reaching the eco conscious consumer faster.

In the case of Ford, which is committed to its 'reduce, reuse and recycle' philosophy, it has been making its cars “more eco-friendly through the use of recycled, renewable and lightweight materials and post-industrial waste materials such as plastic bottles, denim production off-cuts and tyres".

"Almost 300 parts used across Ford’s vehicles are derived from soybeans, cotton, wood, flax, hemp, jute and natural rubber," adds the spokesperson. Renewable materials used are made from plant-based materials such as soy, while lightweight materials include high strength steel, aluminium and magnesium and designs “that provide the same or better performance as other alternatives with lesser weight”.

There are many others who are part of this new drive in authenticity to keep a tab on wasteful consumption while making the most of what nature has to offer. In turn, all this helps making the planet a greener place to live in.

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Published on August 11, 2016
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