It is always tricky to predict future happenings and trends, especially in the volatile car market. A look around trade exhibitions such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, however, can give a flavour of things to come. We look at three areas where the shape of 2014 is already becoming apparent in the industry.
The American auto industry continues to bounce back from the dark days of the financial crisis. Fiat may have swallowed Chrysler but the big American car makers are broadly having a good time. Car sales have been increasing now for four years, and some analysts predict sales in the US could top 16.8 million in 2014. In the UK, things are also rosy. Sales are almost back to pre-crisis levels and have been increasing for six years. The growth is largely fuelled by exports into emerging economies like China, which seem to have taken a liking for British luxury marques. The one black spot in the market is Europe. Sales across the EU have been plummeting just as fast as they have been rising in the UK and US. The reason could well be the type of car produced. Brands like Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Volkswagen and Fiat tend to operate in the middle of the market. This makes them susceptible to being squeezed by cheaper Far East brands like Kia and Hyundai, whilst being unable to move their brands upmarket to compete with the likes of Jaguar Land Rover. Perhaps 2014 will finally see the bottom of the market being reached.
Electric cars and hybrids continue to be pushed hard by the industry, not to mention being subsidised heavily by government. Frustratingly, the technology stubbornly refuses to get much better. Ranges for electric cars tend to be stuck at around 100 miles (on a good day) and charging times remain too long at several hours. Will 2014 be a year of breakthrough? Probably not but other technologies are beginning to look exciting. Ford showed a solar powered hybrid at CES and the hydrogen fuel cell continues to look better equipped to match our motoring needs, with refuelling times and ranges more like those of petrol cars.
It may sound like science fiction but driverless cars are coming to a city near you very soon. Google’s fleet of autonomous motors has already covered 500,000 miles on US public roads without any problems, and the technology has also been tested on UK roads. In 2015, the first driverless cars in the UK are scheduled to appear on our roads, where they will act as taxis in Milton Keynes (where else!), ferrying people from the train station to the shopping centre. To soften us up, all sorts of driving aids will become more common in 2014, from parking aids to collision avoidance technology. Looking ahead, it is this rather than alternative fuels that looks like changing our driving habits most in the near future. In fact, with the ability to safely squeeze more cars onto our existing roads, it could dramatically cut journey times and launch a whole new era of (not) driving.
For more information on what to expect in the near future, visit www.carfinance247.co.uk