Center for Automotive Research

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The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) is a nonprofit research organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan that conducts research, forecasts trends, develops new methodologies, and advises on public policy.


Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation (OSAT)[edit]

Before its current status as an independent nonprofit research organization, CAR was part of the University of Michigan, under the name "Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation" which was a unit of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.[1]

Center for Automotive Research[edit]

In 2003, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) was established as an independent non-profit research organization.

CAR has over 30 years of experience in developing industry consensus in partnership with numerous affiliates and government agencies. CAR also organizes the largest management conference in the North American automotive industry, the annual Management Briefing Seminars. According to CAR, "Our most valuable resource, aside from the skills of our staff, is our access to the decision makers that lead the companies and organizations that make up the world motor vehicle industry—a series of working relationships built on trust arising from many successful projects and forums completed throughout our history."

CAR creates unbiased economic and systems modeling research, develops new manufacturing methodologies, forecasts industry futures, advises on public policy, and conducts industry conferences and forums. As an example of its economic research, CAR chairman emeritus David Cole has in relation to the Tesla Michigan dealership dispute said: "The value of Tesla is all based on hype and not substance".[2]


The Center for Automotive Research's reputation for providing leading, thought-provoking, impactful research was established during its history at the University of Michigan and has been further refined as a standalone nonprofit organization since 2003. CAR's research is led by Dr. Sean McAlinden, Executive Vice President of Research and Chief Economist.

Research Groups[edit]

CAR research is divided into four distinct research groups: Labor & Industry, Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology (MET), Sustainability & Economic Development Strategies Group (SEDS), and Transportation Systems Analysis (TSA).

Labor & Industry[edit]

The Labor & Industry Group performs analysis of the automotive industry's employment, productivity, wages, benefits, education and training, occupations, labor agreements, plant locations, and capacity utilization, as well as forecasting and modeling employment and market demand. The group's research focuses on developing a better understanding of developments in human resource and education issues and policies, as well as tracking critical industry information and government data related to the existing automotive endowment, production, global competitiveness, trade, markets and automotive development in emerging economies.

Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology (MET)[edit]

The Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology Group focuses on evolving technologies and manufacturing engineering systems, primarily in the automotive industry. Technology and product planning are combined with manufacturing to provide a comprehensive and strategic perspective. A significant effort continues to support improving the performance of vehicle development through research in manufacturing systems, tooling, and new technologies of car and light-truck bodies. Research is directed at reducing new vehicle development costs and lead time while improving product quality. Recent efforts have been aimed at technology assessment to support improved fuel economy through advanced powertrains and vehicle mass reduction. This group oversees several industry-led coalitions involving the automotive, utility, tooling, and materials industries.

Economic Development Strategies Group (EDS)[edit]

The EDS group’s research focuses on understanding the evolving nature of advanced manufacturing and its contribution to the economy. The group tracks all major automotive facilities in North America, analyzes investment and incentive data, and promotes the re-use of recently closed facilities. Further, the EDS group is a recognized authority in quantifying employment, economic, and tax revenue contributions to the economy by the industry. In recent years, this work has expanded to include research to estimate potential for greater contributions to the industry and society from connected vehicle systems, alternative fuel fleet purchase programs, use of bio-materials and higher production volumes and consumer adoption of electric vehicles. The research conducted by EDS has proven to be valuable in contributing to the dialogue between the automakers and federal, state, and local government representatives.

Transportation Systems Analysis (TSA)[edit]

The Transportation Systems Analysis group is concerned with the broad context within which motor vehicles are operated. Much of this effort focuses on the planning and operation of transportation infrastructure, as well as on interactions between infrastructure, vehicles, and vehicle operators. Increasingly, this research includes communications technology as a key component of these interactions. In this area, the TSA group is heavily involved in connected vehicle and intelligent transportation systems work. Ultimately, the goals of these efforts are to help both the automotive and transportation industries deploy technologies that enhance safety, improve mobility, contribute to economic vitality, and reduce the environmental consequences of transportation.


Management Briefing Seminars[edit]

The CAR Management Briefing Seminars is an annual gathering of more than 900 auto industry, academic and government leaders addressing critical issues and emerging trends in an inviting atmosphere designed to build relationships. Initiated by the University of Michigan in 1965, the first Management Briefing Seminars hosted only 30 people. When the industry was at its highest number of employment, the event grew to attract more than 1,400 attendees annually from more than 35 states and 15 countries−representing industry, academia, media and the government. Although the industry itself is leaner now, the event still attracts more than 900 attendees. The MBS event is held annually the first week of August at the Grand Traverse Resort, just outside Traverse City and approximately ten minutes from the Cherry Capital Airport. Discussions continue to revolve around critical issues of the day. For many years, MBS has been the site where new ideas gather interest and a variety of initiatives come together.

Breakfast Briefing Series[edit]

The CAR Breakfast Briefings are an educational series, smaller than the flagship Management Briefing Seminars, with the same intent of educating industry participants, media and the general public, on a wide variety of emerging industry topics.


Affiliates Program[edit]

Through the Affiliates Program, CAR maintains strong relationships with key industry stakeholders in the automotive community. Affiliate contributions provide CAR with a source of flexible funding for independent automotive industry research & development and on-going industry service activities.

Affiliate participation provides organizations with research results and a variety of networking and collaborative opportunities. Affiliates gain early access to CAR studies, accessibility to CAR’s research staff for requested information, and an opportunity to guide CAR’s future research, conference activities and more.

Affiliate Links[edit]


External links[edit]