In 2000, 57.5 million new vehicles
were sold worldwide. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be
two billion cars on Earth. With that kind of growth, todays
model of the fossil fuel-burning internal combustion engine is simply
not sustainable. Almost no one argues with this premisenot
even the automobile manufacturers. But, what will move consumers
from mental ascent to purchase? Confidence.
If consumers believe that they will retain the benefits of performance,
comfort, safety and reliability, that confidence will come. And
confidence is what Michelin Group intends to affirm for the general
public by hosting the Michelin Challenge Bibendum. Edouard Michelin,
CEO of Michelin Group, states, In the second hundred years
of its existence, the automobile must be reinvented. It must not
only provide the unprecedented mobility and personal freedom it
always has, but it must also minimize its impact on the environment.
The Michelin Challenge Bibendum is a unique opportunity for automobile
manufacturers to showcase the performance of road-ready, nearly
ready and prototype vehicles.
The 2001 eventstaged for the first time in North America after
two editions in Francekicked off in high style on October
26 with a design awards reception at the Automobile Club of Southern
Californias headquarters. Boasting nearly five million members
in Southern California, the Auto Club is the largest AAA affiliate
in the United States. Internationally renowned designer Sergio Pininfarina
served as honorary chairperson for the design judges board where
winners in nine different categories were announced.
On Saturday, October 27, Michelin Challenge Bibendum traveled to
Fontanas California Speedway for acceleration, braking, slalom,
noise and energy use performance elements as well as a media ride
and drive. The California Speedway has seen many champions
in almost every variety of motor sport, but this was a first. The
premier North American running of the Michelin Challenge Bibendum
2001 efficiency and range trials saw a very different field of competitors
zooming around the oval at a blistering . . . 55 miles per hour?
It is not the kind of competition one usually associates with
a venue like this, says Pierre Dupasquier, Michelins
director of motor sports, but fuel consumption and vehicle
range are very competitive selling points in the minds of consumers.
Dupasquier points out that traditionally motor sport participants
have sought to influence consumer choices by winning races. But
in this competition, he adds, consumers are the ultimate
winners because they will reap the benefits of vehicles that go
farther on less fuel or energy.
The UPS brown package car, one of the most recognized sights in
America, also made an appearance at the Fontana Speedway; and yet
it seemed strangely out of its element. From the outside, it looked
like every other package car you have ever passed on the road, but
this one was fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG), and the laps
it took around the Speedway were not its first time on the road.
This package delivery vehicle is one of 967 CNG-powered vehicles
in our fleet operating in 18 cities, and, earlier this week, it
was in use by one of our drivers, offers Mike Herr, UPS corporate
environmental affairs manager. Herr went on to explain that UPS
has a fleet of more than 3,200 alternative fuel vehicles in North
America, including the second vehicle that ran the paces at Fontana,
an electric-powered van that is also in use as a Next Day Air Express
When you realize that UPS serves 7.9 million customers a day and
owns 77,000 motor-driven vehicles and almost 60,000 tractor trailer
vehicles, it is obvious that finding the most fuel efficient, clean
running vehicle is not only a good thing for the environment, it
is also crucial to profitability. This explains UPSs presence
at this years event: their pioneering use of electric-powered
vehicles in the 1930s and their extensive research and development
program that constantly explores new ways to stretch every gallon
of fuel farther. For some, the introduction of their reusable letter
package seemed to be the most obvious environmental story that they
had to sharewho knew how deep green the Quiet Brown Giant
Another icon of American culture appeared out of place as well:
McCloud, otherwise known as Dennis Weaver. Weaver was sponsored
by his Institute of Ecolonomics and was driving a hybrid, hydrogen-powered
automobile. Now, more than ever, he maintains, America
must move on to an energy source to support our economy that is
independent of foreign supplies. Weaver was also very enthused
about a new synthetic fuel that reduces emissions to micro emissions
and happy to report that two of the Big Three had invited the manufacturers
of this new technology to Detroit.
On Sunday morning, the vehicles took to the open road with a 275-mile
trek from Fontana to downtown Las Vegas, NV. Along the way through
the arid desert and scenic mountains, participants encountered two
significant grade variations. The first was a short, steep climb
through the El Cajon summit; the other a long, gradual climb to
4,700 feet between Baker, CA, and Jean, NV.
On Monday, October 29, following the Michelin Challenge Bibendum
and before the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)
show, Michelin and SEMA co-hosted the Transportation Transformation
Conference: Sustainability, a global conference on alternative
fuel and green technology. Edouard Michelin and Ron Zarella, president
of General Motors North America, were among the guest speakers,
along with Carroll Shelby of Shelby Enterprises.
The endorsement and support of the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enhanced
the credibility of the event and validated the time and effort Michelin
has given to this worthy cause.
For the first time in North America, we will witness on one
stage the widest variety of environmental vehicles ever produced
and gain a glimpse into the future of a greener auto
industry, noted EPA Administrator Christine Whitman. I
would like to commend participants and sponsors in the event for
their vision in developing and promoting environmentally friendly
vehicles for current and next-generation drives.
For more information and to see photos of the cars, visit www.challengebibendum.com.