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In Engine Building, Predictions Don’t Always Meet Reality

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Here we go again.

The fax machine will kill the mail system…

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TV will kill the radio…

Movie rentals and streaming videos will kill the movie theaters…

The above three statements were cited many times over the years, but strangely, none have them have even been remotely close to coming true. Every year the U.S. Postal System still delivers more than 149 billion pieces of mail. There are still more than 2,000 radio stations in the U.S. accounting for $13.7 billion in over-the-air revenues. And finally, Avengers: Infinity War, broke all box office records with its $257.7 million opening weekend.

I mention the above because in this industry I am bombarded by the doom and gloom brought on by the changes many technologies are making in the automotive market. I frequently hear that electric and hybrid technologies are going to put an end to the reciprocating engine. When I am faced with someone spewing this rhetoric, my eyes tend to glaze over and my mind races on how to respond.

First, there are more than 272.1 million vehicles in the U.S., predominately with fossil fuel burning engines. Where are they going to all go? In the U.S. we produce/sell in a good year about 14-16 million vehicles. Simple math says if we never sold another engine, they would all be gone in 16 years assuming no growth in the total vehicle parq. Actually, this year, U.S. electric vehicle sales eclipsed 1 million units for the first time, but that includes the majority of hybrids that still require/use a reciprocating engine. At these rates, there are going to be plenty of rebuilds around to sustain our business.

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The place my mind goes next is what about the power grid? Globally, India, which is one of the fastest growing and potentially largest markets for consumer consumption, is all concerned because their people want air-conditioning. The grid globally can’t currently support India’s need for power just to give their citizens AC. Where are we here in the U.S. going to get all the electric power to charge all these vehicles? From coal plants? Oh, maybe nuclear plants; or maybe we can just dam up a few more rivers and use hydroelectric power to generate the juice.

I think you can see what I am getting at. The demise of the internal combustion engine is not imminent. Do I think it will happen? Sure, over time we will land on the correct technology that is economically feasible, environmentally sustainable and commercially acceptable. Until then, keep on machining and building!

Happy Holidays and see you in 2019.

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