The automobile industry is unquestionably today the great motor of industrial innovation. Technological advances in terms of performance, low fuel consumption and environmental protection and, especially, safety, are at the forefront of innovation in the industry in general, in all areas. The automotive sector is number one, the sector that contributes the most resources (in terms of both direct and indirect budgets), the one that attracts the most talent and development; economically, no other sector moves as much money as this industry. And, most importantly, all that innovation, all those technological advances have a positive impact on other elements and sectors of society, facilitating mobility, safety, commerce, environmental protection, even our mood… Everything the automotive industry creates and develops has a beneficial impact on our daily lives.
We have come a long way in recent decades. Those cars without air conditioning, with manual windows and sticky imitation leather seats, no seat belts in the rear seats, with highly polluting engines and built with heavy plate bodies full of angles and edges… those dangerous and uncomfortable cars have been replaced by cars with functional and aerodynamic designs, with low polluting (and even non-polluting) engines and, in general, are much more comfortable and safe. In this field, safety is where I think innovation has had the most important role: ABS brakes, airbags, power steering, seat belts also in the rear seats, cruise control, trip computer, power windows, ergonomic design, deformable chassis… Innovations and safety advances that have saved millions of lives on the roads worldwide.
This has occurred in recent years. But the commitment to innovation in the automotive industry continues to accelerate with increasing potency, revolutionizing society, and today advances are a reality that yesterday were only fiction. Driverless vehicles, integrated cameras, electric Tesla sports cars, active dynamic systems, high-performance hybrid and electric engines, new and revolutionary materials such as aluminum or carbon fiber; and soon Wi-Fi, GPS and standard web browsers. And who knows, maybe flying cars (a possibility already being studied).
And what is our role in this great innovative movement led by the automotive industry? Well, we could say that if car manufacturers are the motor, we are the chassis. At Gonvauto, as in the rest of the group, innovation and value creation are part of our DNA, are at the heart of the company, our company strategy and our production. Because innovation is only truly effective when it permeates the entire organization and is experienced as an attitude, a way of “thinking and doing”.
Thus, Gonvauto’s contribution to car safety is another grain of sand within the industry. A contribution that may not be seen, but which is there (in the hood, in the sides, in the doors, in the chassis), contributing to making cars safer and hence also helping to save lives.
We develop new technologies and new materials, with a clear mission to reduce vehicle weight without reducing their benefits in strength and ability to absorb a possible impact. And in some cases, we even improve these performances, given that the materials used are better, more advanced than those used up until now, from the viewpoint of their characteristics.
Our contribution is relatively modest, because the designers of the automobile world are the ones who decide what that metal structure will be like, and we respond to the needs that the market puts on the table as a result of this demand for new materials from the market and regulatory bodies. But we like to think that this contribution, however small, is vital.
Notable among those new materials that we process at Gonvauto are aluminum and carbon steels, materials with high elasticity or high resistance. That is, with less material thickness, and thus less weight, it’s possible to achieve a yield capacity and resistance capacity equivalent to heavier materials; and even higher capacities. And thus, because we make the vehicle lighter, it consumes less fuel, emits less amounts of CO2 and contributes to preserving the environment. In short, a combined action of safety and pollution reduction.
Aluminum is at the forefront of the latest technologies related to the automotive world, which is why two years ago we added it to our product portfolio. For us, the introduction of this material has been a real challenge because its high malleability requires additional precautionary measures. But, in view of the results, the wager has been a success.
Similarly, the Emotional Driving project is also a resounding success, a project in which we have been proud to participate. The open door days that we organize at each of the Gonvauto factories between June and July were all a tremendously positive experience. Because of the amount of people involved (around 90%), because of the impacting accident simulators, because of the presence and testimony of people related to road safety (firefighters, people with spinal injuries, doctors…), all of which served to sensitize employees. And the system of idea collection in which people participated was also very positive; it has brought added awareness and managed to keep the flame alive. This, I think, is the main objective: the flame and awareness, not so much the ideas, although interesting contributions are always made.
Personally, of all the activities of Emotional Driving, I think what impressed me most were the testimonies of the injured. When you see someone who is in a wheelchair get up on stage and tell their life experience and how their accident happened, how it changed their life and how they have moved on, it is not something you forget; and when you next drive your car, you do it in a slightly different way. I think that’s the great contribution of this project, and of the other driving courses we have given at the factories: we are all more motivated to be cautious when driving. For our sake and for that of others.
In the end, of all the innovations, technological advances and active or passive safety measures that a vehicle may have, probably the main one, the most important one, is the awareness of the driver. And that is everyone’s responsibility.