As we look forward to a brand new year, it's customary to take a look back at the biggest events of last year. But we'd like to take it a bit further, and give our predictions on what we'll see in 2018 in the global auto industry – based on what we've seen in 2017. It's risky, but playing the soothsayer without any predictive ability can only go wrong in so many ways. So here goes.
Electrics will dominate the year
This should come as no surprise. Electric vehicles made major strides towards acceptance, and the poster child for the electric revolution, Tesla, was one of the most talked about brands last year, especially after the launch of their meme-friendly Roadster. Tesla is cash strapped, so there's a chance they won't be up to much in 2018 other than revealing their much-anticipated electric powered long-haul truck, but that's just an opportunity for others to showcase their wares. The race for alternative fuels is definitely expected to heat up by several degrees this year.
Sporty Hybrids for the masses
Toyota has announced a line of sporty hybrids for all possible applications, from off-road to track use. BMW is pursuing the idea of a sporty hybrid through their i3S and the i8 convertible. Everyone's inching towards making their hybrid powertrains sportier, using the ideas that shaped hypercars like the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari.
The lines between the tech and auto industries will disappear
Automotive technology has always been the weird cousin of the tech industry, learning and adapting much slower than their cutting edge, over-eager and constantly innovating family member. However, recent years have seen the lines between the auto and tech industry blur further than ever before, and now, Nvidia's involvement in Artificial Intelligence development alongside Mercedes Benz, Audi and others shows the beginning of a nascent ecosystem that closes the gap. Automotive AI is the next big thing, and the auto industry can't do it alone, neither can the tech industry, as evidenced by Google's autonomous vehicle project. There are things to be learned from both sides, and only through partnerships can the industries move forward.
Replacements for displacement
We've all seen small, efficient and powerful motors powering everything from mid-size run-of-the-mill sedans like the Honda Civic to full on supercars like the new Ford GT. The idea of an American manufacturer's flagship model being powered by anything less than big bore V8 would've been laughed at, but you know efficiency is the in-thing when even the Americans develop a tiny turbocharged V6 to power a halo car. All the major manufacturers are trying to one-up each other on how to make smaller engines produce enough power, and an efficiency race is something we can all get behind. Except the muscle car fanatics, probably.
The Koreans will come in force
The KIA Stinger GT has been whetting appetites since its 2017 launch, offering M5 levels of performance under a Korean badge and a bargain sticker price. Hyundai's luxury sub-brand Genesis is starting to roll out shapely, well equippedmodels rivalling established European marques. Ssangyong is doing well in developing countries with their funky, feature-laden crossovers and SUVs. Things are looking up for South Koreans, and it seems it'll be difficult to stop them on any front (except perhaps in the general direction of North).
Autonomy is no longer a distant dream
Autonomous vehicles were off to a good start last year, with major strides in development, policy and infrastructure concepts. We expect it all to solidify into a concrete, working model with actual products showcased in 2018. Tesla's autopilot will likely get updated, bringing with it a whole host of innovative ways to make it work better.
Crossovers will rule the Earth
We've covered this time and again, like an ominous prophecy of old fulfilling itself in front of our eyes. Whether the crossover SUV is the chosen one or just another passing fad can be debated upon, but the rapid influx of weirdly cool but still illogical vehicles like Toyota's CH-R and the increasing foothold of cars like Honda's Vezel (even in emerging markets such as ours in Bangladesh) show that crossovers are taking things to the next level. Everyone wants a slice of the crossover game, even some unlikely candidates. On that note…
SMALL-VOLUME MANUFACTURERS WILL EMBRACE THE SUV
Porsche, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Jaguar and now Lamborghini – if you thought the common link between these in 2017 were loud colours andlouder exhausts, you'd be right, but a more clear connection would be how easily they've managed to blend in crossovers and SUVs into their lineups. The Lamborghini Urus, launched at the very end of last year, has taken on small-volume sports car manufacturers and is laying down the track for others to board this slightly distasteful train. Can't wait for an Aston Martin branded SUV? 2018 might be your year, thou-without-any-taste.