2020 Center for Automotive Research Annual Report

Dear friends of CAR,


On behalf of the team at CAR, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support throughout this challenging year. The engagement and support of the automotive industry have never been more critical to the success of the Center for Automotive Research since our founding as an independent nonprofit in 2003.

This year, CAR recognizes its 17th anniversary as a standalone nonprofit organization.  Our mission is:

To produce independent research, convene stakeholders, and analyze critical issues facing the mobility industry and its impact on the economy and society.

As an independent, nonprofit research organization with a multi-disciplinary approach, CAR engages with leaders in the global automotive and mobility industry to support technology advancements and improve the U.S. automotive industry’s competitiveness. We succeed through close collaboration and strong relationships with automakers, suppliers, industry associations, educational institutions, government, nonprofits, and labor organizations.

CAR is well known for its flagship conference, the Management Briefing Seminars, which has been in existence for 55 years. While the event traditionally takes place each year near Traverse City, Michigan, the conference went virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 600 people attended the 2020 virtual event.

CAR’s research is the engine that drives the conference and all of our other work. The automotive industry is increasingly dynamic, and 2020 has been a unique example of that. We understand that as automotive manufacturers and suppliers work to shape the future, you must still meet near term goals in an uncertain business and regulatory environment. CAR’s research supports your efforts and provides critical insights to help you achieve your goals and further the automotive industry’s recovery and success.

This report provides an overview of the research completed by CAR in 2020. It is not an exhaustive list, and there are new topics of relevance to research that will need to be explored in 2021 and beyond. We value your input into shaping those topic areas. Our work is collaborative, and this unparalleled year has only further amplified the value and importance of industry-wide collaboration. Through the unique position that CAR holds in the industry, we work together to enhance the recovery and success of the automotive and mobility industry.

I wish you a happy and healthy 2021.

Kind regards,

Carla Bailo
President & CEO


CAR conducts leading-edge research that impacts the global automotive industry’s future by informing corporate leaders and policymakers and facilitating communication across all industry stakeholders.


Contribution of General Motors to the Economies of Nine States and the United States in 2019 

FEBRUARY  |  ​This study estimates the employment and economic contribution of General Motors’ United States operations to the United States economy and the economies of the nine states in which GM has significant manufacturing operations in 2019.

CAR’s estimates demonstrate that General Motors—the largest automaker by U.S. market share and second-largest automaker by U.S. light vehicle production volume—is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy and the economies of the nine states in which GM has manufacturing facilities. Close to 90 percent of the light vehicles GM builds in the United States are also sold in the country. GM is also among the largest investors in the U.S. automotive industry, with a total of $44.3 billion in announced investments in the country since 2000. Over the past 19 years, nearly four out of every five dollars General Motors has announced it would invest in North America have been spent on U.S. facilities.

This report is presented in two sections: a brief history of GM in the United States, which includes GM’s sales, market share, production, and investments, and the economic contribution of General Motors in the United States and the nine states in which GM has manufacturing operations. Two appendices cover the modeling methods and provide detailed employment contribution results by U.S. industrial sectors.

MDOT Processes in Connected and Automated Vehicle Environment

 MARCH  |  ​Connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies are increasingly integrated into Michigan’s transportation systems. Effective internal communications and successful dissemination of CAV information will help create an overall CAV environment to advance MDOT’s goals. This study leverages on literature review and an MDOT staff survey to evaluate the current MDOT CAV initiatives, information dissemination methods, and gaps, and recommend processes and tasks for MDOT to integrate CAV into department-wide activities and communication across different divisions.

Evaluating Innovative Dissimilar Material Joining Technologies

MARCH  | Due to the need to reduce overall vehicle mass, vehicle manufacturers are turning to a multi-material approach to vehicle construction more extensively than has been historically the case. However, because of the differences in these materials’ chemical and physical properties, joining is not as straightforward as, say, welding steel to steel.

This study, performed under the auspices of LIFT (https://lift.technology) and the U.S. Office of Naval Research (https://www.onr.navy.mil), looks at how various materials can be effectively joined as well as exploring the multiple processes to perform the joining.

Roof Lightweighting Study

JUNE  |  Vehicle mass reduction or “lightweighting” has been deemed very important by automakers because of many benefits, including performance and fuel economy. The arrival of automated, connected, electrified, and shared (ACES) technology will make lightweighting more critical in the future because of added weight and range anxiety in battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

The CALM group selected the vehicle roof structure for a co-development lightweighting study because it provides an opportunity for mixed-material application. This research’s baseline vehicle is the 2011 Honda Accord, which has a mild steel roof structure. The design space contains twelve parts, including the roof panel, roof bows, roof rails, and headers.

Lightweighting ideas submitted by various CALM members were tested on multiple qualitative and quantitative parameters such as manufacturing readiness, joining feasibility, reparability, and computer simulation ability. The project team selected four concepts after filtering through various combinations of lightweighting ideas. All four concepts were studied by computer-aided engineering methods, including finite element analysis and design of experiments. CAR researchers compared the performance of the lightweight concepts to the baseline.

An Assessment of Japanese Automakers’ Impact & Activity in the United States

JULY  |  A new study from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) finds that Japanese automakers are a crucial part of the U.S. automotive industry and the country as a whole. Their history in the United States consists of decades of investments in vehicle and major parts production operations across 24 U.S. facilities, 49 research and development (R&D) and design centers in various regions of the country, and dealership networks that span all 50 states. With USD 53.3 billion in direct cumulative manufacturing investment in the United States since the early 1980s, these firms support 1.6 million jobs in the U.S. economy. Japanese automakers are among the leaders in bringing such technological change to fruition, as these firms make deep investments in innovative R&D efforts in the United States. In addition to the economic benefits they have brought, these firms have become a vital part of the communities that host their facilities through the support of education, training, and philanthropic activities, among other contributions.

Supplier Strategy Reset

JULY  |  Given the unprecedented market and disruption impacting the automotive ecosystem — the industry is at the critical crossroads of increasing vehicle propulsion levels, automated vehicle content, and navigating the negative impacts of COVID-19-driven volume reductions. Specifically, the importance of understanding the dynamics surrounding the growth of propulsion electrification, the pace of adoption, and the strategies behind these have led IHS Markit and Center for Automotive Research (CAR) to consider the way forward jointly.

Auto Industry X

JANUARY 2021  |  CAR will release a new report in January 2021 on Industry X – The Digital Transformation in Automotive Production, highlighting the remarkable change underway in manufacturing. CAR is hosting a series of webinars to share our findings and define future guideposts that you can access now.


CAR researchers produce feature stories throughout the year to cover critical issues that impact the industry today while also addressing topics that may affect the future.


Impacts of COVID-19 on the Automotive Industry and the Economy

Considering that COVID-19 impacted nearly all aspects of the automotive industry, it comes as no surprise that the pandemic is the most discussed hot topic of 2020. While we saw extensive global supply chain disruptions and sharp drops in vehicle sales as some of the short-term impacts near the beginning of the pandemic, the long-term effects are expected to be drawn out. Manufacturing output and auto sales have significantly improved since April, with levels in the United States returning to pre-COVID levels. However, recent case surges have become a cause for concern, and many industry experts warn that we are not out of the woods yet, signaling this topic will carry forward into the new year.


Sustainability in the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry is often notably recognized for its resiliency. In recent years, many of the industry’s key stakeholders have recognized sustainability as a critical and necessary tool for long-term survival, both economically and socially. We have seen positive and negative impacts on the environment from the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also seen increasing social movements surrounding climate change gain traction, both of which have only further emphasized the need for automotive industry stakeholders to include sustainability in their market strategies.


EV and BEV Technologies and Consumer Acceptance

Many automakers and suppliers are preparing for an electric future, especially as we continue to see many regions both domestically and internationally lobby for fossil-fuel vehicle bans within the next 15 years. We have also seen many EV commitments from automakers this year. However, there is still a considerable amount of work to address consumer acceptance of EV’s, given the COVID-19 pandemic might have impacted the momentum underway with lower gas prices and less travel.


CAV Technologies and Mobility

The COVID-19 pandemic may have negatively impacted the mobility ecosystem, especially public transportation, but many groups are still exploring innovative ways to combat the challenges that lie ahead. Some might suggest it advanced the timeline of adopting autonomous vehicle technology in society. Many businesses, such as hospitals and restaurants, have been utilizing autonomous vehicles for no-contact deliveries. We have seen a handful of new AV partnerships emerge this year, and many companies are implementing new AV technologies in their operations. On the other hand, many automakers have been developing antimicrobial materials that could limit virus spread in vehicle interiors, a critical development in the sector of public transportation and shared mobility.



2020 Election Impact on Automotive Industry

Much of the discussion in these last few months of 2020 has evolved around the much-anticipated 2020 Presidential election results. President-Elect Biden’s presidency will undoubtedly have a greater emphasis on clean energy and electric vehicles. Biden’s policies on the economy, trade, and regulations will have a considerable impact on the automotive industry.



In 2018, CAR began offering webinars. The massive digital shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic has provided CAR the opportunity to provide or participate in more than twenty webinars in 2020. Over 2,600 individuals have participated in the CAR webinars this year. Attendees have the opportunity to participate in the webinars in real-time or view the recordings on our website. CAR Affiliates hosted or co-hosted a handful of the webinars we produced, allowing them to demonstrate their organization’s subject matter expertise.


These focus areas are dependent on our research clients, Affiliates, and ACP Members, including you. We are always open to input on areas of research we should explore.

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
  • Artificial Intelligence in Knowledge Management
  • Automotive Cybersecurity
  • Connected & Automated Vehicle Technology
  • Data & Data Monetization
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Economic Modeling
  • Energy Infrastructure
  • Forecasting & Economics
  • Fuel Economy & Regulations
  • Industry X
  • Infrastructure Modernization
  • Lifecycle Analysis
  • Manufacturing & Materials
  • Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
  • Product & Markets
  • Propulsion
  • Public Policy & Regulations
  • Smart Cities / Urban Planning
  • Smart Mobility
  • Sustainability
  • The Convergence of Technologies and Industries
  • Workforce Development
  • Workplace of the Future

CAR 2021 Events

More webinars will be added and listed on the CAR website throughout the year.


  • 2021 Automotive Insights Symposium
  • Affiliate Virtual Roundtable Discussion – Sustainability Part I
  • Automotive Communities Partnership Meetings
  • Battery Enclosure Webinar Series
  • CALM Meeting – 2021 Outlook
  • Developments in EV Charging Security Webinar
  • Enlighten Lightweighting Technologies Webinar Series
  • Leading Innovation and Resilience: Trailblazing Transformation Webinar
  • Propulsion Round Table Meeting
  • PwC Sponsored Webinars


  • Affiliates Networking Event (late June – COVID restrictions allowing)
  • Affiliate Virtual Roundtable Discussion – Electric Vehicle Landscape Part I
  • Affiliates Virtual Spring Industry Briefing with Breakout Room Discussion
  • Automotive Communities Partnership Meetings
  • CALM Meeting
  • Data Usage and Regulations Webinar
  • Propulsion Roundtable


  • Affiliate Virtual Roundtable Discussion – Sustainability Part II
  • Automotive Communities Partnership Meetings
  • CALM Meeting
  • Management Briefing Seminars (CAR MBS) – August 4-5 (Traverse City, MI)
  • NAIAS Affiliates Networking Dinner
  • NAIAS Fall Automotive Communities Partnership & Affiliates Outlook and Forecast Meeting
  • Propulsion Roundtable


  • Affiliate Virtual Roundtable Discussion – Electric Vehicle Landscape Part II
  • Automotive Communities Partnership Meetings
  • CALM & Propulsion Joint Meeting

Ways to Engage with the CAR Community in 2021

  • Ask us to present at a company meeting or event—or—ask us to co-present at an upcoming industry event
  • Send us your research questions
  • Ask us to give a company webinar for your company
  • Pitch us an Affiliates webinar idea and/or participate in an Affiliates webinar as a speaker
  • Pitch us an Affiliates Dinner or Industry Briefing idea and/or participate as a speaker at an Affiliates Dinner or Industry Briefing
  • Host a CAR Industry Briefing
  • Submit a speaker for CAR MBS
  • Become a sponsor or exhibitor at CAR MBS
  • Join a working group
  • Host a working group meeting


This year the automotive and mobility industry has grappled with great depths of uncertainty, but it continues to make strides towards rapid transformation for a better future. Industry stakeholders must remain hopeful yet vigilant in the coming year and continue to carefully monitor trends and shifts in the global economy, industry regulations, social movements, technology developments, and continued industry-wide collaboration.

CAR will research and analyze the major issues impacting your work and success with your continued support in the coming year. Together we will shape the mobility industry of tomorrow. 

How can CAR work for you?

Our research team consistently delivers products that help organizations, just like yours, navigate the ever-changing automotive and mobility industries. For more information on how we can help you, contact:

Shaun Whitehouse
Global Industry Liaison, Marketing and Development Lead
Center for Automotive Research
[email protected]

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