Detroit Auto Show Insights 2022

Detroit Auto Show Insights 2022

Returning for the first time in three years, the Detroit Auto Show was held this past month in downtown Detroit. Also known as the North American International Auto Show, this longstanding event had not been hosted for the last few years due to shifting trends in the mobility space along with the pandemic. While this event used to be a showcase for OEM car companies and their Tier One suppliers as well as a time to reconnect with industry friends and stay up to date on emerging trends, it seems that even after a three-year hiatus, things have not quite returned to normal.

Much has been written about the demise of the Detroit Auto Show. The downward spiral for this annual event started long before the pandemic. This event used to be held each year in early January. As many are well aware, winter in Detroit is not an ideal environment with sub-zero temperatures and winds. In addition, the show fast followed the holidays every year. Although the venue at Cobo Hall was wonderful, the timing for the event always seemed difficult.

Things had to change, and the pandemic accelerated a shift in the automotive industry. Everything was turned upside down and inside out as we all navigated through our new landscape of uncertainty and reduced budgets. The team at Fredrick’s Design worked from home from March through June 2020.  Like our clients, we were trying to find our way through a new landscape. We were running a lean organization going into the pandemic.

In many ways, our experience as a design and engineering firm is analogous to the industry as a whole. The auto show is trying to build a new foundation in the epicenter of the automotive world. There is a deep and rich legacy to draw from while the City of Detroit is transformed over the next several years. Given this legacy and the recent environment, everyone was expecting so much more from the show this year. Unfortunately, the event did not meet those expectations.

The number of companies with exhibits was disappointing. Many of the leading foreign brands either did not show up or, worse yet, put forward a half-hearted effort to provide a few cars in bare-bones exhibits. The domestic brands expanded their footprint to vast spaces. This was an obvious attempt to fill the exhibit hall at discounted rates. There were even exhibits from a retail car company and a small exhibit for a furniture retailer. 

While many of the displays were a disappointment, it was refreshing to see an EVTOL company with a full-scale urban transport aircraft on display. This, at least, provided a glimpse of the future plans for the show. Urban mobility has been a prevailing theme at CES over the past several years.

Detroit Auto Show

The number of concept cars was dramatically reduced from previous years. There are so many more cost-effective ways for concept reveals. It was disappointing that the OEM brands held back to play it conservatively in Detroit this year. The industry is starving for signals that things will return to some level of healthy activity.

To close, the transportation or automotive industry is now being referred to as “new mobility”. Leading brands are in the midst of reorganizing to find a footing in a sea of turbulent change. Total unit sales are down and there is no end in sight for the big problems for large companies. In a world of change, agility and decisiveness are key elements to the execution of innovation. In many ways, this landscape is a template from the shift in the furniture industry that began years ago.

Project Management insights . . .

Project Management insights . . .


Project Management insights…

We apply phased methodologies with milestone reviews to develop projects from research and ideation phase, into feasibility and through concept development. In many instances, our concepts are handed off to an internal Client team or supplier to further develop production release deliverables. The overall project timeline and costs can be compressed when the concept deliverables are robust, accurate and developed with production constraints in mind.

As many companies and technologies work to develop less siloed approaches to design and development the traditional phased approach still leaves much to be desired. We have focused our time and resources to develop a design team focused on bridging these silos to digest the key information from one phase and get a jump start on applying it in a fashion that is digestible to the next phase or team.

The ongoing pandemic has forced companies to reduce headcount to contain fixed costs. In addition, there has been a widely reported exodus of experienced talent entering early retirement. These two conditions have resulted in a significant talent exodus from core teams at a time when smart and seasoned project management is needed to develop innovative solutions.

To compound the challenges, inflation is eroding the buying power of corporations and increased competition demands reduced costs to develop products and services. We are, indeed, living in interesting times!

During a recent project review, we sparked a discussion about different ways to improve team performance. An initial comment led to an impromptu workshop about our role with Clients and different ways to improve team performance. We work as an extension of the Client design and engineering team, and we are all accountable for our deliverables. We win only when our clients win.

We identified several key features of a successful project that should be applied to all innovation initiatives with creative and technical teams. Here we go…

Take the time to write a well-defined project brief…

Work diligently with your cross-functional team to construct a clearly written design, engineering, or project brief. This key document will guide the team through the twisting journey traveled to take an idea through feasibility and proof of concept and physical property development.

Our experience with leading companies in diverse industries has shown that most teams rush through the design brief to start moving on the project. This is especially true of lean teams working with reduced headcount and erosion of experienced management.

Teams get stressed when unrealistic budgets and deadlines are shared with little planning or rationale for the demands. This leads to attrition and ultimately the challenges of recruiting new talent in a hyper competitive landscape.

We provide a guide on how to develop a well-defined project brief on our website. This can be found here: Fredricks Design Step by Step Guide to Building a Realistic RFP

Plan the work and work the plan…

After all members of the team have provided input to the brief and approved the document, an equal amount of energy and focus should be dedicated to the plan for key phases of the project.

In many cases, the early phases of the project are compressed to reflect a short timeline for ideation, feasibility, and concept development to make room for additional time and capital to complete production engineering and tooling.

It is our belief that if sufficient time is planned for the early phase of any project, the investment will be returned in later phases via reduced iterations, leaner design and an enhanced end-user experience. A lack of well-informed planning in early stages of development begins an uphill battle that leads to increased iterations due to unexpected feedback from production and engineering teams. This effect snowballs throughout the program forcing delays in timing and headaches for all parties involved.



Team growth and flexibility…

CEOs and leadership teams are now beginning to consider options for growth. Do we recruit and hire for our core team, engage with external resources, or pursue a hybrid model blending incremental growth to the internal team while working with flexible resources?

We have found success through turbulent times in the hybrid model. Our core design and engineering team is lean, and we engage with proven, flexible resources to scale up for sold projects.

We have also forged a strong partnership with Prefix Companies to offer turn-key solutions from sketch through manufacturing, assembly test and installation of vehicles, rides, animated props, and furniture. This flexible offering provides our clients with a wide range of services scaled to the unique requirements of each project. We are liberated to identify the best materials, processes, and methodologies for each project.

We welcome your comments on this article. Please visit us at and download any of our content offers. We look forward to working together when the time is right!

Best wishes for future success on all of your projects!

Maury Fredricks

Mobile +1 616-402-2300

Consumer Electronics Show 2023

Consumer Electronics Show 2023


CES 2023 is just 7 months away…

The show in Las Vegas is only seven months away! Now is not the time to relax on projects for CES 2023!

We are ready to help solve your problems!

Adient Ai19 Demonstrator

Our team is ready to help on your projects, of any scale and complexity.

We offer flexible and scalable design, engineering and build solutions for advanced vehicles, cockpits, seating and interior systems.

Adient Ai19 Demonstrator Interior

We have deep and diverse experience.

Demonstrators, vehicle development, interior systems, seating, cargo systems, lighting and mirrors

Exhibit consulting, kiosks, displays and tech review support solutions

Please visit us at or call Maury Fredricks at 616-402.2300 to get the ball rolling…Thanks for our past and future work with your team! Best wishes for a successful year and fantastic show!

All images provided by Adient Studio with permission for our use. Fredricks Design, Inc.

#CES2023 #design #engineering #manufacturing #innovation #solutions

Innovative Project Planning and Management



siloed marketing, design and engineering teams

Work as a collaborative team to reduce iterations and improve project flow.

Our work with marketing, design and engineering teams over the past several decades has been an interesting and challenging journey. We have been lucky in our work with diverse teams in different industries.

There are common challenges and goals for all teams working on concepts for innovative products and services. Whatever business you are in, there are a few fundamentals for application in the planning and execution of your projects.

The Design Brief is the project roadmap.

Every project begins with a design brief including constraints on time, budget, and performance metrics. These guidelines, of course, are established after an agreement is reached on the design or project brief with key stakeholders. The problem statement, resources, assignments and measurable goals must be included in the brief. A well-written brief will help guide the team from research through production release and market launch.

How Autonomous Vehicles are Changing the Automotive Design Game

How Autonomous Vehicles are Changing the Automotive Design Game

Autonomous vehicles are changing the automotive design game. When there’s no need for a driver’s seat, a steering wheel, or even windows to the outdoors, automotive design can be transformed. With no driver, vehicles become rolling offices, commuter spas, and even delivery bots transporting goods right to your front door. Let’s take a look at three of the ways autonomous vehicles are changing how we think about automotive design:

Designed From the Inside Out

With no need to consider a traditional driver’s seat, with high visibility or access to controls and steering, automotive design is ostensibly freed up. New, autonomous vehicles aren’t tied to traditional design concepts. Instead of designing with exterior constraints in mind, vehicles can be created in any shape or size, opening up design options to truly focus on the interior first.

Designers now have the capability to consider the user. Whether the focus is to deliver a space to relax on the way to work, hold meetings on the go, or even get work done on a morning commute, autonomous technology is now allowing designers to build vehicles from the inside out, rather than the other way around.

Designed for Moving Goods, Not People

When we think of autonomous vehicles, it’s easy to think of self-driving cars. But autonomous vehicle technology has a much broader application. Our roads are full of vehicles that transport food, packages, and other goods. Autonomous vehicle design has the potential to revolutionize the way we get groceries, the way we receive mail and packages, and so much more. There are already companies making waves in the autonomous delivery markets, and trends like these are sure to change the way we see and design transportation vehicles.

For example, delivery vehicles have the opportunity to become much smaller, as they have no need for a human driver. They need only fit the goods to be delivered, saving space on the road, and the energy it would’ve taken to power a much larger vehicle.

Shuttles, Buses, and Taxis

Before autonomous technology, transit vehicles needed to be large to maximize capacity, while minimizing the number of operators. Trams and buses could only be deployed when there was a driver to direct them. With autonomous vehicle technology, rideshare vehicles aren’t dependent on a driver. They can be deployed whenever a user requests a ride.

This opens up a wealth of design possibilities, from making vehicles smaller and more streamlined to again designing from the inside out, with the user in mind. Rideshare vehicles designed for commuters can feature tables, workspaces, and more, without the extra space that would’ve been necessary for a driver.

The future of automotive and autonomous vehicle design is exciting. From developing new ridesharing vehicles to grocery delivery applications, there is much to be discovered. Fredricks Design is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle design, and we would love to help you develop your next project. For unexpected design solutions that deliver on form and function, give us a call.

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