The automotive industry is always evolving, and 2019 looks like it will be one of the most pivotal years ever. So what are the biggest changes facing the sector over the next twelve months?
Electric and alternatively fuelled vehicles
Sales of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles (EVs) are up significantly year on year and the trend will undoubtedly continue especially with the days of diesel being numbered.
More money than ever is being invested in research, technology development and the national charging infrastructure, while the effective range of EVs (the distance a vehicle will travel on a single charge) is rising with each new model.
As climate and pollution targets become ever stricter, automotive manufacturers endeavour to further reduce their overall tailpipe emissions and motorists strive for lower running costs, sales can only rise.
Subscription services are widely available to all kinds of consumers, so it’s no surprise that the automotive industry has followed suit. Such convenient and attractive plans allow buyers to upgrade their cars after a certain period of time, and also often offer insurance, breakdown cover, maintenance, taxes and other costs in one package. Both customer and manufacturer benefit; happy days.
SUVs and crossovers
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers major on ruggedness, raised ground clearance, boosted cabin space – potentially featuring seven seats – and often four-wheel drive. As a result, their popularity in the family market has exploded in recent years, to the extent that sales have seriously impacted on those of conventional saloons and estates.
Virtually every auto manufacturer, including premium marques, now offer at least one SUV. These models come in every size and price range, and are as accomplished on tarmac as they are when heading off-road. With their appeal and availability looking set to further increase, we predict no slow down in fortunes for 2019.
Disappointingly for anyone who likes a bit of colour in their life, the glory days of the extensive automotive paint palette – the 1950s to the 1980s – are long gone. With an eye on resale values, most of today’s car buyers stick with ‘safe’ exterior paint hues such as silver, white and black.
Such limited horizons might make a vehicle more appealing to potential used buyers, but it results in extremely dull roads.
Thankfully, the advent and increasing popularity of vinyl wrapping mean any and every surface finish is now possible without affecting a car’s base colour or future value. Day-glo, matte, pearlescent, metallic, chrome, wild graphics – when it comes to using your imagination to personalise your motor, the sky’s the limit.
In these ecologically and financially aware times, the argument against private car ownership is mounting. One way to reduce the cost and environmental impact of getting from A to B is to vehicle share, whether informally by commuting with a local friend or colleague, or via a specific car club or ride-sharing app such as Lyft or Uber.
You’ll save money on fuel, wear and tear, depreciation and parking, and you’ll do your bit to help save the planet, too.
Touchscreen infotainment plus haptic, gesture and vocal controls are now commonplace across the automotive industry, but artificial intelligence (AI) interfaces look set to be the next big thing.
This integrated smartphone-like technology can act as a virtual personal assistant, offering downloadable apps and diary management. The availability of connected or ‘networked’ cars using such tech will grow over the coming years, with a fifth of new vehicles expected to be web enabled by 2020.
Smart vehicle technology
Another area where technology will continue to make a huge impact is in ‘smart’ cars. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) tech will transform the driving experience by allowing cars to communicate with each other via Wi-Fi on the highway, while vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) will extend that communication to road features such as traffic lights, roadworks and petrol stations.
The benefits include helping to ease congestion, cutting down on traffic accidents and potentially reducing insurance premiums.
The auto industry’s ceaseless output of new technology means the utopian dream of everyday self-driving cars is closer than ever to becoming reality. It might not quite be at the stage where you can sit back and browse Netflix while your vehicle navigates itself from London to Birmingham, but innovative driver-assist tech using cameras, radar, apps and data-management systems is already widely available on even workaday models.
Meanwhile, marque-specific technologies are starting to help keep the vehicle in its lane and a safe distance from other road users, and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) are being rolled out. The car of tomorrow is here.