If you work in the auto industry, the good news is that the next ten years will be a bounteous decade for you and your peers.
The bad news? After that, you might want to consider a career change.
According to Detroit News, several research firms believe that global auto sales will soon plateau, after which they'll go into permanent decline. How much further will they go? IHS Automotive estimates a top-end figure of around 100 million sales per year -- not too far above the 82 million vehicles sold in 2013.
When will this happen? It's hard to say, but research suggests the turning point will come within the next decade. (Note: that's not "in a decade", but "within a decade".) This is unwelcome news for an auto industry that's hoping to ramp up sales to 120 million by 2016.
Then again, the estimates IHS and others shouldn't be that surprising. Car sales are on a roll now, but we've already seen plenty of indications that the future won't be as rosy. For example:
1) Young people are driving less.
2) In fact, all people are driving less.
3) Cars are lasting longer.
4) Urban populations are growing.
For most of the 20th century, cars meant freedom -- the freedom to move around town, to move around the country, to make some moves on your date at Lookout Point. (There's a reason cars and teens used to go so well together, before the internet changed everything.)
Now, we've begun to reach something approaching automotive saturation. Cars are so ubiquitous today that for many motorists, they've become a nuisance, a necessary evil, rather than a means of mobility. (If you've sat in Friday afternoon gridlock, you understand the irony of always linking cars with "mobility".) This is the case even in developing economies like India and China, the latter of which recently hosted the largest traffic jam in history.
To drive that point home, Detroit News cites PricewaterhouseCoopers' Tim Ryan: "The key question [for automakers] is: Do you sell cars or do you sell mobility? If you ignore these megatrends, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant." Point taken, we hope.
Before you start eulogizing the automobile, though, understand that personal transportation won't go away. For now, mass transit systems are still too unwieldy to take us everywhere we want to go, when we want to go, so personalized systems (e.g. cars, motorcycles, Segways, etc.) will remain. But there's little doubt that they'll become less necessary over time, as we enter the next great age of transportation.
Within two or three months, there will be more than 200,000 plug-in electric cars on U.S. roads--and we're learning more about who buys them, and why.
California's Center for Sustainable Energy released a new report this month that depicts the owners of different models having different reasons for their purchases.
There's a new app out that claims to let users predict the future ... of gas prices.
Fuelcaster is a free online app from Esurance that estimates whether prices will rise or fall in a given area.
A user simply enters his or her ZIP code, and Fuelcaster looks into its algorithmic crystal ball to see if prices will rise or fall the next day.
The 210,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold around the world last year used a lot of lithium-ion batteries.
But if startup automaker Tesla Motors (TSLA) has its way, it will soon need as many lithium-ion cells (of the 18650 format it uses) as are now built worldwide.
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That's why the company plans to release more details this week on its upcoming "gigafactory," a huge U.S. plant to build the cells it needed to let it boost production from last year's 24,000 electric cars to more than 100,000 by 2018.
Already electric cars are consuming huge amounts of lithium-ion cells--and if the sector grows as expected, a whole new industrial base for battery production may be required. ( Continue… )
The Honda Insight hybrid is no more. That's the confirmation from Honda itself, as slow sales prompt the Japanese automaker to end production of its flagship hybrid.
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According to Bloomberg, Honda informed dealers back in November that Insight production would stop this month, and asked them to stop taking orders on the model.
Even car companies have reason to worry about their report cards.
The magazine's Top Picks and Brand Report Cards are a set of ratings for vehicle quality that are scrutinized by new-car buyers just as thoroughly as stern parents pore over grade-school report cards.
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The award for the Tesla may not be too surprising, given the magazine's ongoing love affair with the Model S.
When it joined the Consumer Reports' fleet last year, the all-electric Model S luxury sedan became the highest-rated car tested since 2007, and it has continued to impress the staff.
The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pickup hasn't quite reached dealers yet, but its high fuel-economy rating is already making an impression on truck buyers.
Ram says it received more than 8,000 orders for the EcoDiesel in just three days, completely filling the initial allocation planned for the diesel half-ton pickup.
A significant number of those orders--more than twice the corporate average, Ram says--are from individual customers, rather than dealers building stock.
And those customers placed their orders even though they most likely haven't even test-driven the new trucks.
The flurry of buyer interest comes shortly after the announcement of an EPA fuel-economy rating of 23 mpg combined for rear-wheel drive models.
Electric vehicles already offer car designers much greater freedom than internal combustion vehicles, eliminating the need to find space for the rigid shape of an engine, its transmission and its ancillaries.
That's not to say electric vehicle packaging can't be improved though, and Mitsubishi is aiming to do just that with its prototype electric drive system.
Ordinarily those packaging an electric vehicle still need to find space for electric motors, electric controls, inverters, cooling systems and more.
Various studies will bring you stories of doom and gloom relating to Generation Y and their lack of enthusiasm for cars. We're told millennial buyers, those born between the late 80s and early 2000s, are more interested in staring at their smartphones than they are driving, and that electronic interaction matters more than getting on the road and driving towards the horizon.
Maybe they're right. But Hyundai and the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) of Turin think there's life left in gen-Y yet, and will preview a new sports car for them at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Called the PassoCorto, the car is just a model at this stage, but previews a vehicle designed for young buyers by designers of similar age working at Hyundai and IED. Mid-engined, rear-drive in layout, the car would use a downsized 1.6-liter bi-turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine and weigh just 1,850 pounds thanks to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis.
Striking on the outside and painted orange to reflect the similarly bright hue of 1970s Italian sports cars, the PassoCorto draws a compact cabin around supercar-style proportions, with large, defined wheel arches and aggressive forms. Like modern Grand Prix cars the vehicle's exhaust pipes exit from the top of the engine cover, while the lack of a rear window is made up for with a rear-vision camera. This camera can also be utilized to capture images for sharing later on the internet, a nod to the car's target market. Inside the car uses a dual-cockpit design with driver and passenger largely separated, while the seats are "optically connected" to the dashboard, using the same integrated style. ( Continue… )
When you buy into a company like Bentley you're buying into a little more exclusivity than you get from many marques, and customers expect to be treated that little bit better than they might elsewhere.
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Where one manufacturer might offer cheap branded merchandise alongside its vehicles, Bentley is going one better and offering customers and driving enthusiasts alike a series of 'Grand Touring with Bentley' holiday packages, traveling bespoke routes around the world on Bentley-themed luxury breaks. These routes take in some of the great drives in countries like the U.S, Great Britain, Italy and France, and others will be added in due course.
'Secret Britain' is the first of these tours, beginning with fine dining and hospitality in London before heading into the picturesque Cotswolds and on to Bentley's facility at Crewe, with a private lunch afterward at Bentley Mews. 'Guest of Chanel' takes on a French route, aiming showcase the best of French culture, fashion, cuisine and hospitality inspired by the famous French fashion house. Vineyard tours and a trip into Paris, including a look at Coco Chanel's private apartment, conclude the tour.
'Italian Legend' takes its inspiration from the Mille Miglia road race in Italy, and in particular, Stirling Moss's famous victory at the race in 1955. The Bentley-devised route carefully follows that of the original road race with stop-overs in fine hotels and guided tours around some of Italy's most famous monuments, including the Coliseum and the Sistene Chapel. The 'Luxury of Spontaneity' driving series is a more freeform take on the luxury break theme, with routes including a 130-mile tour around the Mediterranean island of Mallorca and a 745-mile trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Other drives in Oman, Australia, Malaysia, Scotland and Canada will join the roster soon. ( Continue… )