Keeping up with the onslaught of current auto news headlines can be daunting, especially when you consider that 2018 seems to be simultaneously straddling two conflicting paths. Of course, the industry is fulfilling the longstanding prediction of an inevitable decline in sales, and yet, it’s hard to argue the point that it also stands on the precipice of extremely profitable changes to come. With that in mind, let’s take a look at closer look at the automotive trends and concerns worth paying attention to in 2018.
Declining Sales Trends
For the better part of a decade, automotive sales have enjoyed a steady increase, thanks in large part to the ever-increasing diversity of offerings. On the one hand, the fallout of the recession fueled the demand for economical (and eco-friendly) crossovers, hybrids and EV offerings while, on the other hand, hi-po’d trucks and supercars have rejuvenated their own niche customer base.
But while projections just a few years back placed 2017-2018 sales around the 20 million unit mark per annum, updates dropped the mark closer to 16-17 million, with further declines to follow. That said, the versatility of offerings will inevitably play a key role in growing (or at least maintaining) sales numbers in the year to come.
But taking it down to a thousand-foot view reveals that the pressure doesn’t lie exclusively with the automakers. To set the course right, dealerships themselves must embrace a more personalized, customer-centric approach, one that embraces the ease and accessibility of technology and is built around the evolving demands of a younger demographic.
The Role of Ride-Sharing
As of 2018, we’ve reached a point where there’s little arguing the role that ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft play in the changing face of the automotive industry. Consider for a moment that Uber alone boasts more drivers in New York City than there are taxi cabs and the proof is in the proverbial pudding.
But what does this mean in regard to car-buying? Most ride-share drivers are utilizing vehicles which they are already own, and one must factor in the ever-rising cost of owning and operating a vehicle within metropolitan areas which could act as a deterrent, discouraging subsequent trade-ins. But those are purely x-factors…variables which are difficult to quantify and correlate with car-buying trends and sales projections.
What we can’t ignore is the opportunity it presents automakers and dealerships with; an opportunity to create programs which incentivize vehicle purchases specifically for ride-share drivers. By recognizing the growing influence of this particular demographic, it plays to the potential benefits they stand to gain by upgrading their vehicle.
With the millennial generation superseding the Baby Boomers as the largest existent consumer base, it makes sense that marketing initiatives and even corporate cultures would evolve to mirror those changing expectations.
And of those expectations, the creation of a personalized customer-centric buying experience is paramount. This places the burden of a paradigm shift upon the automakers and dealership to either (i) prioritize the consumer above profitability, or (ii) create the tangible illusion that they are doing so. We’ll leave the debate as to which is the correct path to people who are far smarter than we are, but the point speaks for itself. Consumers will be more engaged, and thus more loyal if the buying experience is more satisfactory from their viewpoint.
While the last decade has evolved our car-buying sensibilities to embrace the benefits of hybrid and EV offerings, we are looking out upon even greater changes to come. The trend towards eco-friendly green offerings exists globally, with both Britain and France slated to eliminate gas-powered vehicles by the year 2040.
As of 2018, electric vehicle sales had grown by 30% in the year preceding, but still only made up about 1% of current auto sales. To date, there are 81 different electric models available as of 2018, but that consists of both hybrid and plug-in models. That said, there isn’t a single automaker whose development team isn’t committed to a wider array of electric vehicles.
As a leading automaker, Ford is committed to the creation of a team dedicated to further electric vehicle, while GM is slated to add 20 electric vehicles to their lineup by 2023. Volkswagen and Toyota share similar goals with an even quicker timeline, aiming for 2022. And Mercedes-Benz plans to have a staggering 50 electric variants available within the same time-frame.
Needless to say, electric vehicles are hardly a passing phase, and the journey towards wholly sustainable roads and highways begins right here in 2018.
Current Auto News and the Journey Into the Unknown
The points listed above represent some of the important conversations being had in 2018, but there are far more which exist on either side of the table (if not both). Consider the political roll-back of fuel-economy regulations, forcing a hard departure from the California legislation which has driven global environmental reform. Inarguably a game-changer, regardless of the outcome, it’ll be interesting to see the changes that stem outwards from 2018.
One of the more tangible, consumer-driven areas that we can embrace the developments of first-hand is the evolving face of technology. Whether we’re talking about infotainment technology, advanced safety features, or navigation there’s a simple wealth of amazing features that make there way into each new model year offering.
And one of the most important comes in the role of smartphone integration and hands-free Bluetooth technology, especially how such features will further evolve and transform in the years to come. While neither the federal government or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have any control over the development of smartphone interfaces, there will inevitably be steps taken in the immediate future to ensure greater safety to both driver, passengers and pedestrians alike.
Which brings us to autonomous driving technology, and the race towards its integration that all automakers are clearly engaged in. Self-driving cars call for a full article in their own right but considering the aggressive timeline to introduce such offerings within the next five years, be on the lookout for headlines in 2018. They’re almost everywhere.