At the North American International Auto Show, which opened last week in Detroit’s Cobo Center, one expects to see big pavilions dedicated to Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. But this year, another Michigan firm has a big presence: Dow Chemical.
Marking the first time a non-auto manufacturer is part of the show’s main floor, Dow is sponsoring the Electric Avenue exhibit, where it also has a booth. The 37,000-sq-ft exhibit features nearly 20 electric vehicles. Some of these are flamboyantly avant-garde, such as the 39-inch-wide Tango 600, made by Spokane, Wash.-based Commuter Cars (shown). Others are relatively staid, such as the Leaf, a lithium-battery-powered four-door vehicle that Nissan plans to build in Tennessee in 2012.
Dow Kokam, Dow’s lithium battery joint venture with TK Advanced Battery, has a display in the show’s EcoXperience section. The venture is planning to spend $600 million—$161 million of it from the federal government—on a battery facility in Midland, Mich., by 2011.
When Dow agreed to sponsor the exhibit last fall, its involvement in batteries was an important motive, says Peter A. Molinaro, a vice president for government affairs. But Dow products such as fluids and polymers also play a role in making cars more fuel efficient, Molinaro notes. “When you think of what it is going to take to transform this automotive industry and the way we transport people, chemistry is really a key enabler,” he adds.