THE whizzy gadgets for geeks to goggle at during CES, an annual consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas, have typically been small enough to pick up. But they have been joined in recent years by an increasing number of cars. The Detroit motor show, America’s biggest and glitziest, starts later this month, but many in the car industry now regard CES, which opened on January 5th, as a more important event. Mary Barra, GM’s boss, unveiled a new production version of its Bolt electric car at Las Vegas this week.
Incumbent manufacturers are recognising the double threat posed by technology, as car-sharing takes off and driverless vehicles come closer. First, some people who might hitherto have wanted to own a car may no longer do so, cancelling out the growth the motor industry might otherwise have expected from the rising middle classes in developing countries (see chart). Second, technology firms may be better placed than carmakers to develop and profit from the software that will underpin both automated driving and vehicle-sharing. Some of these firms may even manufacture cars of their own.