• Gas Guzzlers, An iPhone On Wheels, Robocars, And The Ultimate Trump Card – The Biggest Automotive Stories Of 2016

Well, it certainly wasn’t boring, that’s for sure

Whatever your opinion of 2016, this much is certain – the year has been a busy one for those of us interested in the automotive industry. From huge technological progress in the world of EVs and autonomous, to surging car sales, to dramatic racing events, it seems like four-wheel style hysteria was coming at us from every angle. And as we sit down a moment and take stock of everything that happened, we wanted to share ten of the biggest stories to cross our collective desks in this brief round up.

So before you break out the champagne and ring in the New Year, take a moment to look back at what 2016 brought us. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it is controversial. And while there’s no way of saying what’ll happen in 2017, we will say this – 2016 was one helluva roller coaster.

Continue reading for the biggest automotive stories of 2016.

Gas Guzzlers, An iPhone On Wheels, Robocars, And The Ultimate Trump Card – The Biggest Automotive Stories Of 2016

Ford Once Again Victorious At 24 Hours Of Le Mans

2016 24 Hours Of Le Mans - Race Report
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Back in the early ‘60s, Ferrari and Ford were deep in negotiations over the Blue Oval’s possible purchase of the Prancing Horse. FoMoCo spent millions to take inventory of Ferrari’s assets and cover legal fees associated with the deal, but as the story goes, Enzo pulled out at the last minute over a dispute regarding who would run Ferrari’s open-wheel racing program.

Ford was furious, and in response, decided to take the fight to Ferrari on the racetrack – specifically, European endurance events and the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, an event where the Italians were traditionally the dominant entry.

Ford quickly launched development of a Ferrari-beating racer, and in 1963, the first GT40 was born. Although initially unsuccessful, the GT40 would eventually enjoy a string of victories at Le Mans, taking the win four consecutive times between 1966 and 1969.

This year was the 50th anniversary of that first Le Mans win, and as such, Ford brought a new GT to France in hopes of repeating history. Incredibly, Ford was successful in that endeavor in its very fist attempt with the new car, securing a first-, third-, and fourth-place finish in the GT Class.

Read the full story here.

”Peak” Auto Sales

Gas Guzzlers, An iPhone On Wheels, Robocars, And The Ultimate Trump Card – The Biggest Automotive Stories Of 2016
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Auto sales hit an all-time high last year, with 17.4 million cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. You’d think a figure like that would be a source of relief throughout the industry, especially after the massive downturn of 2008 and 2009, right?

Not necessarily. While the final numbers are still being tallied, some analysts are predicting a downward trend for the next eight years or so, a theory akin to the “peak oil” idea we’ve heard so much about (Business Inside has a nice write-up on the idea here

Either way, consumers are currently buying new cars with increasingly risky car loans, echoing the subprime housing lending fiasco of 2008. According to an article published by Bloomberg, more and more borrowers are falling behind on their payments and losses are on the rise. Some experts are predicting this trend to continue, even with a strengthening U.S. economy.

Crossover Domination

2016 Toyota RAV4 – Driving Impression And Review
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There are a variety of reasons folks might buy a crossover or SUV, but when it comes to why automakers are building them, the answer is obvious – demand is high and the profits are fat. With that in mind, it’s no wonder the tall-riding body style segment is filled to brim with competing options. Models like the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, and Honda CR-V are simply cleaning up in sales, and with gas prices staying low, it’s looking like that’s not gonna change any time soon.

Fuel Economy Regulations

Gas Guzzlers, An iPhone On Wheels, Robocars, And The Ultimate Trump Card – The Biggest Automotive Stories Of 2016
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Even with demand for gas-guzzling SUVs and crossovers at record highs, the U.S. is moving forward with stricter standards for automakers when it comes to mpg – probably. Back in 2012, President Obama revised the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program from the ‘70s, mandating a 54.5 mpg standard to be achieved across the board by 2025. The automakers cried foul, but the EPA has announced the new standards will remain firm going forward. Paired with the recent signing of the Paris climate change agreement to cut back on emissions, it’s looking like big things are afoot when it comes to your car’s fuel consumption.

Of course, with Trump now headed to the White House, we could see some serious backpedaling. Maybe. More on that later. But speaking of emissions…

Volkswagen Pays The Piper

Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Explained
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No doubt one of the biggest auto-related stories to break last year was the so-called Dieselgate scandal, wherein it was revealed that Volkswagen was “cheating” on emissions tests using “defeat devices” that would enable certain diesel models to register lower tailpipe emissions than normal (check out our explanation here).

Well, after a good deal of run around, VW finally agreed to pay an incredible $14.7 billion to settle claims surrounding 475,000 affected VW vehicles sold in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015. The settlement includes cash restitution, as well as the option for vehicle buybacks, lease termination, and equipment modification (check out our complete breakdown of the settlement here).

But that nearly $15 billion sum didn’t cover a fix for the 80,000 or so vehicles in the U.S. equipped with a cheating 3.0-liter diesel engine, which, it was just announced, will carry a price tag of another $1 billion for the beleaguered automaker. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the affected vehicles in Europe, either…

Long story short, VW still has a mighty big hole to climb out of.

Electrified Interest

2016 Jaguar I-Pace Concept High Resolution Exterior
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In the midst of polluting diesels and low gas prices, we find 2016 also adding momentum to that segment destined to outrun the internal combustion engine once and for all – the all-electric vehicle. With growing demand and looming emissions restrictions (probably), automakers have introduced a huge number of new and updated electric cars and hybrids, including the Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Bolt, Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3, Ford Fusion Energi, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, and more.

Then there were hybrid sports cars like the second-generation NSX, the first batch of which sold this year, concepts like the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and impressive electrified performance at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

2018 Tesla Model 3 High Resolution Exterior
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But of course, the biggest news in the segment came from Tesla, which dropped cover on its upcoming Model 3 sedan. Sporting tasty futuristic styling, over 200 miles of range per charge, high levels of performance, and a $35,000 price tag, the Model 3 was an instant hit, quickly amassing more than 350,000 pre orders and forcing a significant rethink of Tesla’s production strategy.

The Secret Apple Car

2021 Apple iCar Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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While the verdict is still out as to whether or not Apple is actually building its own all-electric, fully autonomous vehicle, the evidence seems to point towards the affirmative. Between leaks, a huge number of recruits arriving from the auto industry, new partnerships, and a boat load of investment, it certainly looks like Apple has something like a car in the works. At this point, it could simply be autonomous driving software.

But maybe not.

Autonomous Insanity

The robocars are coming! And while we might be a ways off from our own personal digital chauffer, there’s no shortage of news on just how fast the automakers are progressing towards a future where a human pilot is the exception, not the norm.

But for every bold prediction and new concept car, there’s the reality of actually bringing this tech to the street. Testing, new legislation, and a whole lot of grey area are all part of it too.

But one of the biggest stories in the world of autonomous cars this year dropped this summer, when it was revealed that a Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode was involved in a fatal accident in Florida.

Car Hacking

As old school technology bites the dust and new connected tech takes its place, the threat of a hack rises. Last year, that threat was made very clear when a pair of security experts demonstrated what could be done with a vulnerable connected car and a laptop.

This year, car hacking was still a major topic of discussion, with a few headlines including the possibility of an easy entry for thieves and concerns over data privacy.

President Elect Trump

No matter what, you can’t escape it – this year’s presidential campaign dominated the news, especially with regards to the auto industry. One of the big-ticket items was Mr. Trump’s criticism of Ford for building some of its cars in Mexico, a criticism that could be leveled at a number of major automakers. Given his promise to bring jobs back to the U.S. (especially in manufacturing), it remains to be seen if Trump will be able to deliver. Then of course there’s the issue of emissions standards and federal tax credits for zero emissions vehicles. plus future trade deals and a whole host of other issues.


That’s it for this year’s round up of all the big news stories from the auto world. But we want to know – which stories did you care most about? Let us know in the comments.

Jonathan Lopez
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