Forecasting the four-wheeled weather for the New Year

Pretty soon, we’ll mark yet another rotation around that giant glowing ball of hydrogen and helium we call the Sun by setting off explosives, cracking open the bubbly, and wishing one another a “Happy New Year” amidst a flurry of streamers and ridiculous light-up glasses. And that makes it the perfect opportunity to look back at exactly what happened during the last 12 months, a chance to remember both the good and the bad. That said, it’s also a chance to start thinking about the future. What lies ahead in the year 2018? What opportunities will be presented? What will change? What will fade away? While we might not have all the answers, we do have a good idea about what we might see in the near future with the following automotive predictions.

In total, we’ve got seven of ‘em for you, dear reader, ranging from which segments will see growth, which technologies will see big advances, and what the automotive landscape might look like as the planet heads into its roughly four-and-a-half billionth lap around the solar system. Read on for our shot at car-themed crystal ball reading.

Continue reading for our Seven Predictions For The Auto Industry In 2018.

Even More Crossovers And SUVs

2017 Los Angeles Auto Show – Worst In Show
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We saw a lot of new SUVs and crossovers this year, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. Back in 2014, the segment became the most popular choice for U.S. consumers, outselling sedans in terms of raw percentages, and demand doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. The latest numbers point to a continued decrease in passenger car sales, as well as a continued increase in crossover, SUV, and truck sales.

Why the dramatic shift? The reasons are many, but we can generalize by saying consumers these days are interested in a vehicle that can do everything, be it cruise comfortably on the highway commute, load up for a weekend outing, or even dabble in a bit of off-roading (yeah, few buyers actually takes these vehicles into the rough stuff, but it’s more about the idea it can tackle a trail that really matters). Throw in low fuel prices, and the SUV/crossover segment makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.

Few manufacturers can deny the siren call of this booming segment. Even traditionally sporty manufacturers are getting in on the action – for example, Lamborghini just unveiled its first SUV entry, dubbed the Urus, earlier in December. If the trend we’ve seen over the last few years continues unabated, expect to see the SUV and crossover segment make even stranger bedfellows. I’m looking at you, Ferrari.

More Top-Shelf Performance

7 Predictions For The Auto Industry In 2018
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Once upon a time, the supercar segment was tiny, consisting of just a handful of high-profile models. Now, the number of uber-powered mega machines has exploded, with 2017 seeing the release of the McLaren Senna, the Mercedes-AMG Project One, the Aston Martin Valkyrie, and the Hennessey Venom F5, to name just a few. Things have been so crazy, we had to ask –Is There Such A Thing As Too Many Hypercars?

We’ll let you read the article and decide the answer to that question for yourself, but long story short, 2018 will surely bring along even more outrageous performance machines. With automotive technology continuing onwards into the stratosphere, and the rich becoming even richer, this segment is ripe for growth. Indeed, these millionaire toys are getting scooped up as quickly as they can hit 60 mph, and the automakers will respond accordingly.

Electric Vehicle And Battery Technology Goes Crazy

2020 Tesla Roadster
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620 miles of range per charge

Speaking of automotive technology, electric vehicles and battery technology will also likely see some impressive development in 2018. Even as the Trump administration makes moves to take a step back on fuel-economy regulations, the pressure to make cars more efficient isn’t going away any time soon. The current requirements won’t change until 2022, and it remains to be seen what sort of rules will be set forth afterwards. Furthermore, the U.S. isn’t the only market in the world, with plenty of pressure for higher mpg numbers coming from Europe and Asia. Even within the U.S., there’s a growing lust for electric cars (California and its self-imposed clean air restrictions is a great example).

All told, the stage is set for more investment into EV and battery tech. Then when you throw in the potential for jaw-dropping all-electric performance (did someone say 2020 Tesla Roadster?), and it looks like everyone could benefit.

Autonomous Technology Spreads

Google Lands Former Airbnb Exec To Lead Autonomous Driving Project
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2017 brought out all kinds of advances in autonomous tech, from new and updated safety systems, to wide-spread testing on public roads, to the announcement of additional technology investments. The tech promises a lot, and automakers are racing to be the first to bring it to consumers in a big and meaningful way.

We aren’t quite at fully autonomous robo car sans steering wheel yet, but the advances are coming fast and furious. Expect to see more announcements in 2018 as the various makes assert their lead, plus the possibility of software and other non-car companies (Google, Apple, etc.) throwing their digital hat in the ring. The race is on.

The Rise Of The Connected Car

Renault Symbioz Is Like A Mobile Room High Resolution Interior
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Along with new self-driving capabilities, we expect the cars of 2018 to bring a new level of connectedness, offering an opportunity to integrate more fully with your digital life. The Renault Symbioz concept that appeared at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show is a good example of this trend taken to its extreme. This thing integrates so completely, it actually becomes a part of your house, offering an entire living space that can be adapted to suit a plethora of needs.

Granted, we won’t get anything like the Symbioz in the real world in 2018, but the ideas it presents are a decent representation of where we could be headed. Imagine controlling your home lighting, heating, and entertainment from the passenger seat, turning off the lights on your way to work, turning down the thermostat on long trips, and watching a movie from the cloud on the rear-seat digital screen. Or maybe you could pay a toll without breaking out the small bills, or order take out with voice command, or automatically reroute around an upcoming traffic jam. If it makes your life more interesting, more social, or more convenient by connecting to the Internet, it could be happening very soon.

Adding to this is further integration of digital instruments and touchscreens as well. Analog is old school – digital is the way of the future. Scratch that – digital is the now.

New Ownership Models, New Car Purchasing Experiences, New Show Models

7 Predictions For The Auto Industry In 2018
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The advent of new technology isn’t just altering how cars are driven and experienced, it’s also changing the fundamental basics of purchasing and buying a new car. As companies like Lyft and Uber take over the taxi business, carmakers are anticipating new subscription-based ownership models that’ll open up transportation solutions to folks who’ve never even considered buying a car outright, something that’s particularly suited for younger consumers. Volvo and Porsche are both toying with the idea, and if it picks up, expect to see others join the fray.

Then there’s the car buying experience, which is moving away from the traditional dealership test drive. Rather, virtual reality is providing digital experiences without ever leaving the showroom floor, with buyers getting a chance to ring it out on the track and sit in a bespoke interior thanks to a simple headset.Mazda is already doing exactly that in the U.K.

Finally, there’s the old car show format, where manufacturers descend on a particular city convention center, set up a bunch of expensive booths, and push through crowds of eager enthusiasts hoping to get up close and personal to some fresh metal. While we enjoy the experience and encourage folks to get out there and try it for themselves, the format seems to fading a bit as of late. With rising costs and diminishing participation from the makes, the old show format is gonna need to change to stay relevant in an age when an experience is just a mouse click away

Chinese Manufacturers Enter The U.S.

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Despite the fact that the vast majority of manufactured goods consumed in the U.S. come from China, the stigma against Chinese passenger cars remains. However, that hasn’t stopped Chinese companies from getting in on the action. For example, Geely now owns Volvo, and builds four-doors in Chinese factories for the U.S. market. U.S. marques are doing the same thing – for example, GM is making the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid and Buick Envision in China, while Ford is making the Focus there as well. Look for that trend to continue to gain steam, possibly even resulting in a fully-fledged Chinese marque breaking into the market without all the U.S. dress up.

What do you think?
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