Posts Tagged ‘Freidhelm Engler

24
Feb
10

Global economics as a force of change

I played out my career in the nonprofit part of the economy: public health cancer control. I knew people involved in many causes who were constantly striving to achieve specific kinds of “change.”  Toward the end of my years in the field it struck me that what is actually happening is the converse: there are an unprecedented number of broad forces instigating change and they interact in weird and wonderful ways. Indeed, in today’s world there’s really no way to stop change; but many outcomes are not controllable or consistent with what folks want to see. In the USA today there are those who “want our country back,” and they blame the Obama administration for upsetting a past order they recall as more satisfying and proper. From what I can  tell a lot of people have a hard time putting their finger on just what it is that’s wrong, but somebody is to blame for their unease.

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the huge growth in the economy of China forecast by economists: $123 trillion GDP by 2040. I was reminded of that again in a recent article in Wired News by Zach Rosenberg about how the American auto industry is swinging to fulfill the thirst of the Chinese middle-class for automobiles. They’ve read the projections too. It’s not exactly a nuclear secret that the next 900 lb. creature in the room will be a giant panda. Rosenberg quotes a GM executive:

“This is clearly the market of the future,” says Freidhelm Engler, General Motors director of design in China. “It’s not going to slow down.”

To sell cars in China a lot of cultural tweeks are need. For example, a design concept of the Buick Regal specifically for China has new features.

Inside, the back seat envelops the passenger “like a clam” … in the same manner as an emperor’s throne. Interior coloring is nearly monotone from the rear passenger’s perspective in accordance with Chinese expectations of a car. Notice the deep purple color. GM says was “chosen to elicit the right level of attention and respect” and named it euphemistically after a rare and slow-growing Chinese tree, It was designed, Engler says, to look like a smooth fabric blowing in the wind.

And beyond that, the Chinese will begin to exert influence back on the US.

With the demands of the enormous Chinese market, the expansion of Chinese companies into the West and the introduction of Chinese vehicles to U.S., American consumers should expect to see some Chinese characteristics make their way across the ocean. “Decoration to enhance proportion,” says Engler, “may show up in North America in coming months.”

Do you suppose these changes are going to result in more jobs in the US on the assembly line? Are Americans going to be happy with “Made in China” stickers in the most sacred of American symbols: the automobile? This is certainly not going to be a resurrection of the era of the ’57 Chevy.

For people who are unsettled by change the future is going to be a very distressing place. Even for the people who keep calling for change, what we get may not be what you had in mind.

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