Automotive news seems to happen every day. It is worth reviewing these stories to see which way the automotive wind is blowing, however, because we acknowledge that the health of many of our businesses rises and falls (at least to some extent) on the trends in the automotive industry.
Two forecasts – NADA and IHS – predict vehicle sales of about 16.9 million in 2015. This is an increase of about 500,000 from 2014. IHS Automotive also predicts global automotive sales of 88.6 million in 2015, an increase of 2.4% over 2014. In Canada, light-vehicle sales set an annual record in 2014, which is expected to be broken this year. It’s predicted that North American vehicle production will rise steadily through 2022.
Looking at that 2022 time frame, it’s predicted that GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will be number 1, 2 and 3. Rounding out North America’s top-10 in 2022 will be Toyota, Honda, Renault-Nissan, Hyundai-Kia, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes.
Toyota is currently the world’s top automaker. Toyota posted early-year sales gains of 12-13%, with their luxury division, Lexus, posting a 22% increase in February. Similarly, although smaller than Toyota, Nissan reported gains and set a February record. Their luxury brand, Infinity, increased almost 20% YOY in February.
Volvo announced plans to build its first factory in the U.S., nearly 60 years after it began selling cars here. It will be Volvo’s fifth factory, and the investment will be about $500 million. A location has not yet been announced. Last year, Volvo broke its previous sales record from 2007.
Luxury brands have been the biggest gainers in the past five years with sales increasing 154% compared to a 36% gain in the general auto market. Possibly spurred on by these gains, the luxury brands showed off diverse lineups at the Geneva International Motor Show. Bentley displayed a small sports car, Aston Martin promised an SUV and Koenigsegg (a Swedish company) introduced a sports car that will cost $1.9 million.
Here at home, a new U.S. manufacturer, VL Automotive, is beginning production of the VL Destino. It is basically the Fisker Karma without the batteries and electrical system. Instead, it is powered by a 630-hp Corvette ZR-1 supercharged V-8 with a GM six-speed automatic transaxle. The price will be in the $200,000 neighborhood.
Fueling the Growth
In spite of lower oil prices, GM plans to move forward with its plans to expand its electrified-vehicle strategy. GM is committed to building the Bolt for 2017, which has a 200-mile range. They will also be making a 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid, which will use powertrain components from the Volt to achieve a combined 45 mpg.
Volkswagen plans to launch a new electric vehicle in the U.S. around 2018. It’s reported that VW is giving serious thought to innovating solid-state battery technology. It is anticipated that VW will decide the future of its battery investments by summer.
Nissan recently delivered their 75,000th all-electric LEAF. The LEAF has a driving range of about 84 miles.
A new report indicates that worldwide sales of natural-gas vehicles are expected to total 37.2 million in the decade ending in 2024.
High-tech collision-avoidance systems are making our cars safer. The technology that seems to be getting a lot of recent press is autonomous-driving vehicles. Volvo recently announced that it had completed designs for self-driving cars that it plans to put on the road in two years. Volvo is challenging Nissan and Google to be the first to put fully automated cars into circulation.
As I write, a self-driving car is making a trip from California to New York. While three people will be riding in the modified Audi, no one will be driving for a majority of the time. The car utilizes Delphi’s self-driving technology, which includes about 20 sensing systems.
It’s anticipated that the first real-world application of this technology will be vehicles that can drop you at the door, park themselves and return to pick you up. The future is now!