Following the end of 2019, we saw quite a few changes within the automotive market over the last decade. While Crossovers and SUVs were introduced more widespread in the early 2000s, their popularity didn’t quite take off at extraordinary levels until about 2008. Within this past decade, we have seen automakers discontinue small, midsize and large car lines due to slow sales. This trend is continuing even to this day, with looking at 2020 and forward, we will continue to see more brands dropping car lines. Another big trend in the last decade was the rise of the electric car, more in the last 5 years even. After 2000, we saw a large introduction of mild hybrid vehicles, but soon after, Plug-in Hybrids took on and then into the Tesla, Leaf and the Bolt. Lastly, even despite rising fuel costs after 9/11 and within the last decade, the horsepower wars have been prevalent within performance vehicle brands and are continuing to increase in strength every year. Even within performance vehicles, while the trend is still there and increasing, it is also evolving at the same time. These three trends have been successful and carry into 2020 as main trends due to one thing, Evolution through Technology.
Historically, we have seen the family vehicle market transition from wagons to minivans to SUVs. Brands continue to drop slow-selling sedans and cars from their lineups to create more volume of crossovers and SUVs, as well as larger lineups of Crossovers. Buick is one of the latest, discontinuing both the LaCrosse and now the Regal after 2020 to make room for the new Encore GX and Enspire. Other brands are also increasing these lineups, especially the German luxury brands. Due to higher fuel prices over the past two decades, one would think that Crossovers and SUVs couldn’t survive due to their larger size and potentially more fuel cost. Newer materials such as high-tensile steel and aluminum reduce weight, forced induction allows for the same power out of a smaller displacement engine and future hybrid and electric technology even eliminate the worry about fuel costs at all in some cases. This trend is starting to evolve into the large SUVs with the new Yukon, Tahoe/Suburban, and Escalade all being reinvented on the next generation platform. Pickups are soon to follow as well with Hybrid and Electric technology with brands such as Rivian, General Motors and Ford.
Another trend that is evolving very rapidly and largely is the Plug-in Hybrid and full Electric vehicles. With Chevrolet discontinuing the Volt this past year, this indicates that the future is seen in full electric offerings such as the Chevrolet Bolt and other future products. Plug-In Hybrids still have a very important future and all still increasing, in crossovers and SUVs rather than cars. One of the original hybrids, the Prius, has trouble holding its own now with RAV4 and Highlander Hybrids. More automakers have revealed PHEV crossovers with more coming on the way. Companies like Audi and Mercedes-Benz also have their own lines, e-Tron and EQ. Jeep has also released two 4Xe crossovers for North America, the Renegade and Compass. The legendary Wrangler has also been redeveloped into a 4Xe Plug-In Hybrid as well. Jeep also stated that its entire lineup should have a 4Xe offering by 2022. While this powertrain has evolved in range and vehicle packaging, another key feature to this evolution is autonomy. While we may not see it largely in 2020, full autonomy that is, we have most vehicles offering autonomous driver assists as well as full autonomy coming in the next few years.
Performance vehicles are always the poster vehicle on a child’s wall, or the dream vehicle in someone’s shop. Similar to the 70s, rising fuel prices, fuel economy standards and stricter emissions are here again for manufacturers. Unlike the 70s however, the horsepower wars are in full effect again and have no sign of slowing down. Horsepower wars will just evolve with forced induction, electrification and hybrid assisted powertrains. Within the Big 3, we have seen many high horsepower muscle cars in the last 2 years. With all 3 brands having an offering with over 650hp from factory, these cars actually achieve remarkable efficiency historically due to forced induction. Other vehicles have evolved such as the Corvette becoming mid-engine and potentially a future hybrid as well. The Ford GT has gone from a V8 to a supercharged V8 to a twin-turbo V6 making even more power. European exotics have even gone as far to introduce KERS like systems to its supercars. This means hybrid or electric will be key to future power with instant torque and the ability to package smaller or even with individual motors.
CES 2020, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, hosted its largest number of vehicle releases this year. Many of which were concepts, showing what automotive companies could do with infotainment, autonomy and electrification. Many vehicles were also future production as well. This large presence shows the line between technology, electronics, infotainment and vehicles blurring even more every year. Sony even had developed its own vehicle concept for the show this year. Except even more evolution in the decade to come. Autonomy and electrification will also continue to increase the number in automotive OEM startups within the industry as well.
Written by David Murphy