CES 2020

FCA's Airflow Vision shows off the future of UX (and maybe a new Chrysler SUV)

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

One of FCA's brands is known for having an exquisite interior - Ram. However, the company's UConnect infotainment system is generally regarded as one of the best in the business. FCA's new Airflow Vision concept car takes the story of in-cabin technology further giving a peek into the next-gen look and capability that may come the the automaker's stable.

Airflow Vision isn't just unique in its technology. The entire interior of vehicle has been designed around the user experience. It considers not just the tech itself, but how occupants interact with that technology. FCA says that the concept has been, "created for customers with an on-the-go lifestyle and a desire for a first-class travel experience while balancing their technology needs within a serene environment."

Airflow Vision

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

The UX employs a screen that features multi-layered, high-contrast graphics. It has been designed on, "the principles of depth, hierarchy, consistency and legibility," according to a release. That explains the clean design, which FCA says makes the UX easy for the average user to interact with.

FCA says that by navigating the menu-based format, users can personalize, simplify, and group together elements on multiple screens. That information can be shared amongst the cabin's occupants.

The concept car features a light and spacious interior that is the dimensions of the flat load floor of the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. Suede and leather is abundant throughout the cabin and seats feature a slim profile with a pedestal base.

FCA says that the exterior of the Airflow Vision has an "elegant and clean design statement" with an "athletic profile, long wheelbase, sleek lines and wide stance." The company also teases that the design, " hints at the future of premium design."

While a forthcoming vehicle based on this design may be years away, and dependent on the production implications of the FCA-PSA Group merger, it is likely that various elements of the technology shown in the model will begin to make their way into FCA's vehicles in the future. What is certain is that FCA needs to evolve their SUV lineup and a new SUV under the Chrysler umbrella is an advisable way to go.

Kia Motors has given insight into the company's future product plans.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia is charging ahead with an aggressive electric vehicle (EV) implementation plan that includes 11 new vehicles in the next five years. The strategy, called "Plan S" starts with the company's first dedicated EV in 2021.

Plan S is a dual-focus shift for the company. On one side they will be progressing toward an EV-centric product strategy while in the other hand Kia will be focusing on customized mobility solutions. They will also be focusing on autonomous vehicle development.

By the end of 2025, Kia plans to offer a full line-up of 11 battery electric vehicles. The company is aiming to have 25 percent of its vehicle sales outside of China come from what they call "eco-friendly cars" by 2025 on their way to achieving a 6.6 percent market share in the global EV market (500,000 annual EV sales excluding China). According to a McKinsey & Co. analysis published April, the U.S. EV market almost doubled to 360,000 EV units in 2018, mainly because of the strong sales performance of Tesla's Model 3.

From 2022, Kia plans to add EVs in the passenger vehicles, SUVs, and MPVs categories. They further outlined their electric vehicle development:

The dedicated EV model to be launched 2021 will be built on a unique platform specifically engineered to accommodate the car's world-leading EV powertrain and technologies. It will offer a crossover design which blurs the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles, a future-oriented user experience, a single-charge driving range of over 500 kilometers, and sub-20-minute high-speed charging time.

Across its EV line-up, Kia plans to operate two different types of EVs with different charging capabilities (400V/800V) -- high-performance dedicated models and derivative models with reasonable pricing -- to meet the diverse needs of customers.

Growth in global EV sales will be pursued in accordance with a customized, market-oriented strategy, which considers regional differences in environmental regulation, subsidies, infrastructure and more.

These EVs are expected to first be sold as a trim level option in Kia vehicles in the same vein as the Niro EV and Soul EV.

Additional Kia expansion is planned to come from car-sharing and e-commerce businesses.

"Plan S is a bold and enterprising roadmap for Kia's future business transition, buttressed by the two pillars of electric vehicles and mobility solutions," said Han-woo Park, president and CEO, Kia Motors. "Our approach is to put customers first, and Kia will reinvigorate its brand innovation by developing products and services that offer new experiences for customers."

Easily missed in this plan is Kia's proposition to raise the sales of internal combustion engined vehicles while at the same time establish the development system for EV architecture. Though they say that they'll focus those efforts on emerging markets, it's relatively safe to say that the Soul, Forte, and Telluride aren't going away any time soon.

Kia is activating recent partnerships and company share acquitions to get to this goal. Last year, the Korean automaker invested in Croatian performance EV manufacturer Rimac Automobili and IONITY, which specializes in building high-speed charging infrastructures.

They're also planning on building "Mobility Hubs", transfer stations between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Long term plans call for self-driving robotaxis and on-demand roboshuttles to also populate these Mobility Hubs.

Kia is part of a car-sharing services joint venture with Repsol, Spain's major energy corporation, in Madrid via its WiBLE brand.