U.S. Carmakers Lag In Eco-Friendly Features

Detroit is more focused on power-train technologies, such as hybrids or battery-powered electric vehicles than it is on navigation and telematics, an iSuppli report said.
Struggling U.S. automakers are falling behind in more than just producing fuel-efficient cars. They also have been unable to keep up with their foreign counterparts in offering eco-friendly features in car navigation and telematics.

Carmakers Audi of Germany, Fiat of Italy, Kia of South Korea, and Honda and Nissan of Japan are now offering and developing environmentally friendly features ranging from an indicator on the instrument panel that gives ecological driving advice to sophisticated real-time driving pattern comparison via a telematics system, market researcher iSuppli reported Friday. In addition manufacturers' and aftermarket navigation systems are providing eco-friendly, fuel-efficient paths as part of route calculations.

But U.S. carmakers have yet to match their competitors. "Compared to Europe and Asia, the North American market is behind the curve," Phil Magney, VP of automotive research at iSuppli, said in a statement.

Instead of offering matching features, Detroit is more focused on power-train technologies, such as hybrids or battery-powered electric vehicles, Magney said. "North American OEMs have yet to announce an eco-friendly technology that operates through a navigation route or that notifies users of inefficient driving."

With telematics and navigation systems expected to play an increasingly important role in fuel efficiency, it's crucial that U.S. automakers stay on top of the evolving technology, iSuppli said. While Detroit focuses on miles per gallon, competitors are taking that information and repackaging and marketing it as part of an overall system to promote eco-friendly driving.

Such efforts are expected to become increasingly important to car buyers looking to reduce fuel costs over the life of a vehicle.