- NAIAS is:
- A motor show held in Detroit, home to America’s Big Three automakers, at the beginning of each year.
Once again this year, Detroit, Michigan, USA, home to the Big Three automakers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler [now FCA]) is kicking off with the opening of the Detroit Motor Show or NAIAS (North American International Auto Show), which takes place from January 9 to 22.
This motor show brings together automakers from around the world and is the subject of much attention as a site for world premieres of the latest vehicle models. This year, as well, more than 20 new models and concept cars were presented. Also, individual companies made presentations on Press Days, January 9 and 10, and speakers included Ford Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Mark Fields, Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche, Toyota President Akio Toyoda, Nissan President Carlos Ghosn, and Honda President Takahiro Hachigo. This lineup gave attendees a clear sense of how important the American market is.
A new section, Automobili-D, has been established as a forum for more than 100 companies, including automakers, suppliers, and startups to present the latest technologies related to automated driving, connected cars, and urban mobility, areas that are showing rapid evolution this year. This is a new endeavor to create next-generation mobility through collaborations not only between companies but also among industry, government and academia.
World Premieres of Three Newly Developed Transmissions, Including a 10-speed RWD Automatic Transmission
Like last year, six Aisin Group companies (Aisin Seiki, Aisin Takaoka, Aisin Chemical, Aisin AW, Aisin AI, and ADVICS) are jointly exhibiting this year at the annual Detroit event. The centerpieces of the exhibition this year are three newly developed transmissions.
10-speed RWD Automatic Transmission
The first is 10-speed RWD Automatic Transmission. This is Aisin’s latest flagship car model, with size and weight reduced while the number of speeds is increased from the conventional 8 to 10. Smooth and with speed changes among the world’s fastest for a rhythmic and pleasant driving feel, this transmission is suitable for luxury cars.
Multi-stage THS II RWD Transmission
The second new transmission, the Multi-stage THS II RWD Transmission, is for installation in luxury hybrid vehicles equipped with two motors. It differs from conventional products by integrating a stepped automatic transmission into the predecessor THS II, and employs efficient engine area while expanding the area of electric vehicle locomotion. It also derives the maximum engine output from the low vehicle speed, thereby achieving both super-powerful acceleration and low fuel consumption at high speeds.
8-speed FWD Automatic Transmission
The third new product is an 8-speed FWD Automatic Transmission. This transmission, to be combined with a gasoline engine, is multi-stage, achieving the world's top-level transmission efficiency by enlarging the lock-up area and realizing vehicle performance in response to the driver’s intentions.
There was a great response to these new transmissions, and Michigan State Governor Rick Snyder was among the visitors to the Aisin Group booth on the press day. A press conference drew numerous reporters, and after the conference Aisin Seiki President Ihara, Aisin AW President Kawamoto and others were surrounded by reporters who showered them with questions about the latest 10-speed RWD automatic transmission and the 1-motor hybrid transmission on the horizon in the near future.
The Aisin Group booth also presented products related to sensing technologies, such as a Driver Monitoring System and Full-Perimeter Monitoring System, which contribute to automated driving, currently a hot topic in the North American market. In addition, Aisin displayed products for vehicle dynamics control, such as Active Rear Steering and a High-Performance ESC Modulator, and in connection with these, presented a simulation of the Unconscious Driver Support System that automatically pulls the vehicle over to the road shoulder when it senses driver abnormality. Aisin also exhibited body-related products that improve comfort and convenience through weight reduction and shape optimization, and other new directions aimed at boosting fuel efficiency 30% by 2025, including a more efficient power train and thermal management technologies.
Presenting the One-person Electric Compact Mobility Unit ILY-Ai
Concurrently with the Detroit Motor Show, the Aisin Group also operated a booth in the new Automobili-D zone. Aisin demonstrated the near-future one-person electric compact mobility unit ILY-Ai, which switches among four modes (Vehicle, Kick-Scooter, Cart and Carry). ILY-Ai the third-generation update of the first ILY-A model presented in 2015.
According to Hiroyasu Hosoi, the ILY-Ai developer from the Innovation Center Planning & Development Group Mobility Team, “In addition to changing shape more easily, this latest ILY-Ai not only automatically stops but also has more advanced intelligence for tasks like following the owner, returning to its original place and automatically charging itself. As personal mobility units like this get more popular, we are likely to see more accidents. Under these circumstances, devices need the intelligence to prevent accidents beforehand, and we are proud of our competitive advantage in that respect.”
I (journalist Taichi Fujino) also got a special opportunity to ride it, and some things that impressed me were the new operating system, in the form of an accelerator and a steering wheel, a more familiar format for people of various generations than the cross-type joystick of the previous model, and the three-wheeled structure that is not only convenient but also helps the user get around smoothly and easily as he or she wishes and enjoy the ride (see the posted video).
Mr. Hosoi says, “There are still issues such as amendment of legal regulations for use in Japan, but in the future we will continue to conduct demonstration experiments, and we hope to see ILY-Ai grow in popularity as a way for people to get around.” I agree and hope to see this personal mobility unit introduced as soon as possible.
The Aisin Seiki President's Press Conference
The Aisin Group press conference was held at 11:45 on January 10, the third press day, and Aisin Seiki President Yasumori Ihara gave a talk. After presenting the three new transmissions described above, he discussed the future as the Aisin Group. The three areas of “Zero Emissions,” “Automated Driving” and “Connected Cars” are defined as core areas for next-generation technological development, and Aisin intends to focus the entire Group’s development resources intensively on these areas in the future.
President Ihara spoke impressively about aiming for “the next frontier in mobility,” stating that joint working groups transcending boundaries between companies have already been formed within the Aisin Group and next-generation development is underway.
Signs of Detroit Reconstruction Show America’s Resilience
Over the past few years, the trend toward digitization of automobiles (the Internet of Things, electrification, automation) is accelerating, and the main beginning-of-year battleground for automakers and suppliers appears to be shifting to the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
Since the global financial crisis, the Detroit Motor Show has certainly been a less flashy affair than before, but the top executives of each company are still sure to appear, and it is a venue for world premieres of new models and new technologies. This is evidence of the strength of the American economy, which continued to show record car sales volumes in 2015 and 2016.
On that note, Aisin Seiki President Ihara said “over the past few years we have been able to build good relationships and expand transactions with the Big Three in Detroit in various fields, not only transmissions.” It seems that further acceleration of the Aisin Group is entering the countdown phase.
Various endeavors are underway to revitalize Detroit after its bankruptcy a few years ago, including converting street lamps to LED and demolishing decrepit buildings, and a sense of brightness is returning to the city. This year’s Detroit Motor Show made me feel anew the power of America on wheels.
After graduating from university, worked in the editorial departments of automobile magazines Car Sensor and Car Sensor Edge and then became a freelance editor and writer. In addition to specialized auto industry journals, general-interest magazines, he has reported on many leading businesspeople in automobile-related and other fields, and is also a contributor to publications including Nikkei Business, Nikkei Top Leader, and Nikkei Digital Marketing. Member of JMS (Japan Motorsport-Journalist Society).