Electric cars spur massive design change among automakers

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Dane Sager Kelly

DETROIT - Electric vehicles are one of the biggest trends seen at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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Electricity is changing everything in the auto industry.  It reduces the number of parts in a vehicle and increases how quickly it can be built on the assembly line.  Not only is the rise in electric automobiles shaping the industry, it also will change the shape of the vehicles themselves. 

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Nissan's luxury division Infiniti debuted the QX Inspiration at the auto show, which is an all-electric SUV concept. The space saved by not using an internal combustion engine means the cabin-space can be larger.

"You have no engine in the engine compartment, everything is below the floorboard," said Paul Eisenstein, with the Detroit Bureau. "As a result you're able to take a lot of that space and under the hood and move the passenger compartment forward. A very large interior in a very small footprint. That should be good news because you can downsize without sacrifice."

Yet for all this inventive shape shifting, IHS market analyst Stephanie Brinley said there are speed limits.

"We've seen autonomous vehicle concepts with more lounge interiors and flipped around chairs and stuff like that," Brinley said. "Yet some of those 'what-ifs?' will be in conflict with the vehicle safety standards that we have today."

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