Is natural gas a game-changing technology? Is the Chevy Volt a game-changing technology? Doesn't the game have to change significantly before a technology can be called a game-changer?

Can this really change the auto industry?

Game changer? Not any time soon

The latest energy bill provides nice tax credits for natural gas vehicles. Honda executive claims, “This could be a game-changer.”

The Volt is a game-changing product,” recently claimed a Volt executive.

Maybe. Nonetheless, shouldn’t we wait until the game actually changes before claiming a product a “game changer”?

As the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize comes to an end, for instance, one thing appears obvious, just “how difficult it will be to make truly revolutionary improvements to the automobile.” Despite numerous hybrid and plug-in attempts, only one technology has emerged as the most “revolutionary” potential game changer: weight reduction.

Ultimately, the game isn’t really changing, and the only reason there is any change at all has nothing to do with “game-changing” products. Instead, new CAFE regulations are forcing automakers to make a few changes. Of course, not enough changes to have any real impact on oil dependence, or even foreign oil dependence.

Even if every other American commuter drove a Chevy Volt 40 miles or less per day, so that only electricity was used, America would still be heavily dependent upon foreign oil. That’s how little and how slowly the game is actually changing.

One day plug-in vehicles, natural gas and/or many other technologies could become real game changers. Unfortunately, none of today’s “game changers” are set to cause a revolution in the US auto industry any time soon. Likewise, any number of technological breakthroughs across many different technologies could easily make today’s “game changers” irrelevant.

“Game changer?” Sadly, the auto industry still has a long way to go before they can rightly claim such a description.