The future? We're in it

The auto industry is a daily grind, right?

It's marketing war rooms where stressed-out sales generals scramble to adjust regional incentives to match the latest move by a competitor.

Or it's zone office staffers pushing dealers to take on inventory, or bean counters busily crunching numbers for the next quarterly report, or engineers sleeping on the factory floor to meet a vehicle launch target.

The car industry is action-oriented, a consumer business with immediate needs. It's all about today.

Oh sure, it takes four or five years to develop a new product, which sounds like a long time. But in the auto industry five years is roughly equivalent to the day after tomorrow.

So when do you catch your breath and really ponder the future?

When do you engage in the intellectual exercise of considering ... not just what the auto business will look like 10, 15 or 25 years from now ... but what transportation will look like?

That's where the real action is. That's where you really need to be smart.

"Futurismo," Season 1 schedule
Aug. 1: Converts to the Cult of Car-Sharing
Aug. 8: The Enablers: A New Breed of Transportation Providers
Aug. 15: Automakers and the Third Age of Mobility
Aug. 29: Car Sharing and the New Auto Finance Ecosystem
Sept. 5: Cynics and Skeptics
Sept. 12: The Ownerless Car

A visionary

In fact, the industry has a tradition of long-range visioneering. In 1939, General Motors stunned the crowds at the New York World's Fair with its Futurama exhibit -- an epic display of crystal ball-gazing created by legendary industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes.

Shiraz Ahmed, 25, an interactive reporter and producer at Automotive News, had never heard of Futurama until joining our staff. But after a bit of reading and looking over old photographs of the exhibit -- and then speaking with Donald Albrecht, curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York -- Ahmed had discovered in the industry's past a way to look at its future.

Albrecht's 2013 exhibit on Bel Geddes' life and work painted the designer as a man whose great contribution to society was to envision a future of urban design that quickly became familiar.

Investigating ideas

Ahmed was inspired.

Now he is the young brains behind Automotive News' new podcast series "Futurismo."

"At the end of GM's Futurama," Ahmed says, "visitors were given a button to wear proudly as they wandered the fairgrounds. It proclaimed, in big, bold, capital letters: "I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE.'"

Our beat at "Futurismo" is the next quarter century of the car business. The assignment is to reveal trends and technology that could revolutionize the way automakers, suppliers and dealers do business.

We're investigating the ideas just now bubbling up, the ones that will determine whether the auto industry of the distant future will even be recognizable to us.

"Futurismo" will also present the youthful men and women we expect to manage the industry 25 years from now, the gifted young minds with uninhibited, intuitive and forceful imaginations that can soar and ferret out secrets of the far-off future.

The first season of "Futurismo"will consist of six episodes.

Season 1, Episode 1 begins with a look at the future of mobility itself.

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