10 Automotive Predictions for 2012

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10 Automotive Predictions for 2012

Postby sonya zafar on Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:15 am

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1. New C7 Corvette Won’t Be Revolutionary
The next generation Corvette, the 2014 C7, won’t debut until early next year. But as 2013 creeps closer, we probably will learn much about the all-new ’Vette—and what we learn probably won’t shock or awe anyone.

Every new generation of Corvette spawns wild rumors of incredible technology and revolutionary powertrains. Since the 1970s, we’ve heard that the next “new Corvette” will be midengined and perhaps it will use a turbocharged V-6 or a rotary engine. It might also have wild bodywork. And yet, as far back as the 1950s, Corvettes have used a rear-wheel-drive chassis with a V-8 upfront. And for the past 40 years, Corvette styling has evolved consistently, like the Porsche 911’s. There have been no great leaps in styling since 1968.

The new C7 probably won’t be any different. There most likely won’t be any radical split-rear-window as a nod to the ’60s. A V-8 with around 450 hp will probably live under the car’s hood. We expect the new interior to be much upgraded over the current car, perhaps offering GM’s new Cue infotainment system. That might just be the most revolutionary part of the new car: a truly modern Corvette interior.
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2. The Revitalized Dodge Dart Dominates
Currently, Dodge doesn’t have a small car to compete with Ford’s Focus or Chevy’s Cruze. But that will soon change. The new Dodge Dart, officially unveiled at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, hits the streets later this year.

The Dart will borrow much from Chrylser’s parent company, Fiat. And that’s good news: Considering how many small cars Fiat and its sister brands produce for Europe, it should know how to produce a class-leading compact. Ford’s new Focus was developed entirely by its company’s European arm. And Chevy’s Cruze was engineered with the European market in mind too.

So if Ford and GM can create good compacts by harnessing the talents of their European arms, why can’t Chrysler? The Alfa Romeo–based Dart should be a solid competitor for the Focus and Cruze. It will be available with two naturally aspirated four cylinder engines (160 hp 2.0-liter and a 184 hp 2.4-liter) and a turbocharged 1.4-liter motor also with 160 hp. Transmission choices include a manual gearbox and an automated dual clutch manual. Chrysler has said the Dart posted a combined rating of 40 mpg in testing. Now, those are the company’s internal test figures, and the EPA fuel economy numbers will likely be lower. But we think the new Dart might be one of the biggest hits for 2012.
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3. EVs and Plug-In Hybrid Sales Continue to Stagnate
The year of the electric car was widely believed to be 2011. Chevy launched its much-hyped and (presumably) highly anticipated Volt plug-in hybrid—a car that won more than 20 automotive awards, including three from Popular Mechanics. Nissan launched the Leaf last year too, the first EV the company has ever sold in the U.S.

But these electrified vehicles didn’t exactly fly out of dealer’s showrooms. Both carmakers wanted to move about 10,000 of their futuristic cars in 2011, but Chevy sold 7,671 Volts and Nissan sold 9,674 Leafs. You could blame many factors, but, like most things, it comes down to dollars. These cars are both relatively expensive, even with the generous tax credits, and the cost of gasoline isn’t high enough to make them worthwhile.

If gasoline prices were to spike past $4 a gallon and the cost of these plug-ins came down by several thousand dollars, then 2012 might be a banner year for EVs. But as of this writing, experts are not predicting a wild increase in oil prices this year. Hybrid technology took many years to resonate with consumers, so we predict EVs will continue to stagnate for the rest of the year and probably beyond 2013.
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4. Japan Battles Back
Toyota and Honda, traditionally hit makers, have had a difficult few years. Both (but especially Toyota) had expensive recalls. The redesigned Civic has been so poorly received that Honda CEO Takanobu Ito took personal responsibility for the car’s lackluster performance. And a huge hit for both companies came in March 2011, when the devastating tsunami in Japan crippled the parts supply chain. Thousands of completed cars were destroyed in port and the Japanese car industry was shuttered for days. Overall, Toyota sales in the U.S. were down 6.7 percent in 2011. The Prius (which is built in Japan only) was 18 on the list of top 20 cars sold in the U.S. in 2010; it fell off the list last year.

But a slew of new Japanese cars are waiting to be launched this year, including the smaller Scion FR-S sports car, Toyota Prius C, the all-new Honda Accord, and an exciting Acura NSX supercar. We predict that this year, the pendulum will begin to swing back slightly in favor of the Japanese.

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5. 2013 Ford Fusion Sweeps Automotive Awards
The majority of all-new 2013 model year cars have yet to see an auto show stage—much less your neighborhood dealership. But we expect that the new Ford Fusion and Cadillac ATS, both revealed at the Detroit Auto Show this week, will be the cars everyone will be talking about this year. If fact, they look so good on paper, we think they’ll end up cleaning up all the automotive awards when this year draws to a close.

The Fusion is not only one of the most handsome sedans to come from Detroit in a long time, but its powertrains promise to break new ground. The all-four-cylinder lineup includes a powerful 250-hp turbocharged Ecoboost engine, matched to a sportier chassis. Ford promises the hybrid models will hit 47 mpg in the city and 44 on the highway—class leading numbers by a comfortable margin. In fact, Ford says its new plug-in hybrid version, called Energi, will deliver better fuel economy than the Chevy Volt at an estimated 100-mpg equivalent. Wow.
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6. V-6 Is the New V-8 for Full-Size Pickups
The 365-hp Ecoboost V-6 has been a huge hit for Ford, delivering good fuel economy without the added expense and hardware of a hybrid. The EPA says an Ecoboost F-150 can hit 23 mpg on the highway. That’s impressive. And consumers have been opting for this engine in large numbers. Ford sold more than 100,000 Ecoboost-equipped F-150s last year—about 40 percent of all F-150s.

GM has all-new full-size pickups on the horizon, and they may surface (at least on the auto show stand) before the end of 2012. If they do, we wouldn’t be surprised if there was an optional turbocharged V-6 under the hood. We hear GM plans to cut quite a bit of weight form the new pickups, but they will need smaller displacement engines to meet upcoming fuel economy targets. And a new V-6 could also be used in several GM crossover, SUV, and sedan applications.

Chrysler’s next full-size Dodge Ram trucks aren’t due until 2014 or 2015, but we’d bet that they too will come with optional V-6 power.

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7. Return of the Midsize Pickup
In the past, most pickup buyers would buy the largest truck they could afford, because fuel economy and tidy proportions weren’t really as important as hauling capability and big power. The popularity of V-6 pickups (like the F-150) means the tide could shift slightly in 2012.

Sales of Nissan’s midsize Frontier pickup were up by a huge 48 percent in 2011. Yes, Ford finally killed the compact Ranger. But there’s a new midsize version of the Ford Ranger intended for markets around the globe. It’s not supposed to sell in the U.S. but spy photographers have seen this larger Ranger undergoing testing stateside. And Chevy has already committed to bring its new Colorado (originally intended for export markets) to the U.S. as a 2013 model. That means we’ll see that truck here later this year. Once these two trucks hit America’s streets, we predict midsize pickups will become popular again, just as they were in the ’80s and ’90s.

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8. No, Saab Will Not Be Saved
Saab sold just 5610 vehicles last year—only Smart sold fewer cars. To put that into perspective, if Saab’s sales number were for a trim level of the F-150, Ford wouldn’t sell that trim level anymore.

Amidst the 2009 restructuring of GM, the company announced that the “new GM” would not include Saab. Swedish supercar-maker Koenigsegg would step in and purchase Saab. But that deal fell apart. Then, in 2010, Saab was sold to another supercar-maker, Spyker. But after that company went through its own restructuring, Saab was still in trouble. In December, Saab filed for Chapter 11.

As recently as earlier this month, rumors of more suitors, like Turkish company Brightwell Holdings, were still in the news. However, the investment needed to create new mainstream products that excite consumers is probably too large. We will miss Saab. Not the Saab of today, limping along on borrowed GM platforms and tech, but the ’70s and ’80s era of the company—an original, authentic, and Swedish Saab.

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9. Cadillac (Almost) Outsells BMW
Cadillac has made a remarkable comeback over the past 10 years. The company went from producing the weak Catera in the late ’90s to launching its first modern sport sedan—the CTS—in 2002. Since then, Caddy has grown its market share and created some very successful and sporty products. But as good as the CTS has been for Cadillac, it isn’t small or nimble enough to compete head-to-head with BMW’s volume sport sedan, the 3 Series.

However, the new Cadillac ATS is just the right size, measuring within inches of the BMW’s proportions. GM says the new sedan is lighter than the 3 Series, too, and packs a powerful 270 hp turbocharged four-cylinder as well as a larger V-6. With a weight balance of 50/50 (front to rear) the ATS’s handling should be quite good.

BMW sells about 100,000 3 Series in the U.S. each year, making up nearly half of the company’s sales here. If Cadillac’s ATS drives as well as we think it might and GM eventually sells as many ATS sedans as BMW sells 3 Series, then Cadillac will sell more cars in the U.S. than BMW does. And that will be a truly impressive accomplishment.

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10. Cloud-Based Auto Apps Hit Big
Cloud-based computer connectivity, communication, and storage are beginning to make their way into our cars. And we predict that in 2012 cloud-based automotive apps will be the biggest automotive-tech story of the year.

In 2011, both Nissan and Toyota announced separate deals with Microsoft to use its Azure cloud-based connectivity system. The Nissan system uses the cloud to deliver information between its customers, the dealership, and the car. But the Toyota system is more extensive and will be able to deliver new services or applications as well as energy management services for plug-in hybrids. The first Toyota cars to use these services will come this year.

Mercedes-Benz has also announced its new mbrace2, a cloud-based system which debuts on the redesigned 2013 SL sports car and includes traffic and navigation assistance, speech recognition, Internet browsing and searching, concierge services, and automatic crash notification—and of course, the potential for apps.

GM sees serious growth here too. On-Star, the oldest and largest cloud-based automotive platform, will now allow apps built by third parties.

sonya zafar
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Re: 10 Automotive Predictions for 2012

Postby thomasrandy on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:27 pm

The Chevy corvette stingray is on the top of its class. The concept version of the car is heavily featured on the 2nd and third installment of the Transformers Trilogy.
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Re: 10 Automotive Predictions for 2012

Postby Stevenjobs on Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:22 pm

What great Predictions. Thanks for sharing. Images you have shared are awesome.
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