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What the future of the auto industry will look like

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“The global auto industry is still developing,” says Bruce Belzowski, an associate director at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. “In five to 10 years, there could be strong competition on a global scale.”

ANDERSON IS ONE of those Midwestern towns where modern automobile technology was born. Flint, Mich., had its engine and body shops, and Detroit its production lines, but Anderson provided cars with the beat of their electronic heart.

By 1900, Anderson was home to 11 automakers and two brothers, Perry and Frank Remy, whose Remy Electric would soon become the nation’s leading producer of magnetos and dynamos needed to start cars in the nation’s growing auto fleet.

Through the decades, legions of electrical engineers worked at Remy and at other nearby manufacturers to develop power for lights, radios, seat warmers, keyless remote entry fobs, and computer-controlled engine and ventilation systems. Anderson and the rest of central Indiana was the “Silicon Valley” of vehicles, says William Wylam, a former director at Delco Remy, Remy’s successor firm.

That’s “was,” as in, “isn’t any longer.” Today Anderson, a city of 60,000 northeast of Indianapolis, mixes run-down bungalows and shuttered storefronts against the backdrop of an empty 1960s-era headlight factory. “Everything here in Anderson today is gone – it’s all gone and most of the [factory] buildings are torn down,” says Mr. Wylam.

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