Automakers have to walk a thin line when it comes to trends and what is deemed desirable by consumers. While they certainly want to stay ahead of the curve, there are plenty of sub-genres that are hot one minute that run ice cold the next. For anyone who has ever had the privilege of riding in a car from the early 1990s that still has electric seat belts, you know exactly what I am talking about here.
There is a lot of talk about tech and efficiency these days, with consumers expecting cars to be connected on a multitude of levels. Long gone are the days when safety was the first statistic we looked for in a car. Today’s buyers are likely to skip this topic entirely for it is just a given that all modern cars come equipped with a gazillion airbags, ABS, and crumple zones.
Setting or following a trend can also be an incredibly expensive and time consuming process for automakers. This isn’t a pair of jeans we are talking about here, but complex pieces of machinery that cost millions to research, develop, manufacture, and market. So while it is always a fortuitous sign if a company suddenly makes a certain trend spike, it is oftentimes safer to follow in someone else’s footsteps and create a unique spin on a design that has already been though the learning curve.
1. Turbocharge/Supercharge Everything!
With the government stressing stricter efficiency standards, and consumers asking for more inexpensive engines, car manufacturers are offering us four and six-cylinder options like never before. But that doesn’t mean we are stuck with “grannie-grade grocer-getters,” and companies like Honda and Ford are slapping turbos on cars in order to give us a better balance between potency and efficiency. Keep your eyes peeled for further releases from Audi too, as their use of an electric supercharger has the potential to offer us more power and fuel gains than anything we have seen to date.
2. Sexy Sport Models Aren’t Just For Sports Illustrated Anymore
Even though buyers keep asking for more fuel-efficient automobiles, there is still a deep-rooted desire within them that pines for performance. Automakers have been listening too, with companies like Lexus rolling out F Sport models across the board, and Ford offering us everything from the Fiesta ST to the carnivorous F-150 Raptor. Even the pipsqueak sport model of the Honda Fit is a hit. With its clean lines, integrated fog lights, sporty interior upgrades, and alloy wheels buyers don’t seem to care that it isn’t any more powerful than its base sibling.
3. Chauffeur Me Around Town Please
Drunk driving could soon be a thing of the past, as the autonomous testing of everything from a cross-country self-driven Audi SUV to record-setting semi trucks in the Nevada desert that drive themselves have proved successful. What was once considered a space-age technology of the future is a trending segment that is here today, and this one is sure to only get bigger as time goes on. We just hope that companies like Rinspeed can jump in on the fun in order to help keep autonomous cars interesting.
4. Assault and Battery, Supercar Style
Auto enthusiasts never in a million years would have thought of putting the words “hybrid” and “supercar” in the same sentence, and yet here we are with Porsche 918 Spyders and McLaren P1 dream machines that are partially powered by batteries. This trend isn’t going away anytime soon either, with Acura’s NSX slated for release here shortly and hybrid batteries offering us more than just fuel-efficiency when the hammer is down.
5. Eliminate the Middleman
Probably the most controversial topic listed here is that of Tesla selling directly to consumers; this trending factor has been cause for more than just a few embargoes and media blitzes in its short existence. The California-based company stands as the flag-bearer for a marketing plan that eliminates third party dealerships, and while it may appear controversial to some, it is a brazen step in a growing trend where consumers prefer to save time, money, and energy by dealing directly with the manufacturer itself.
6. Smartphones on Wheels
We are at a point in history where technological advancements have turned cars into these complex computers on wheels, and as drivers our connectivity to one another and the road is virtually uninhibited at this point. From infotainment systems that rock everything from Pandora to Netflix, to built-in WiFi hotspots that keep everyone in the backseat connected as they trundle toward home, there is no denying that modern cars are becoming more electronic than mechanic and that this trend is only going to grow stronger over time.
7. Everybody’s On a Damn Diet These Days
While Ford is busy offering us an aluminum chassis and plans on becoming the world leader in carbon fiber automotive products, Corvettes are getting their engines stuffed with titanium internals and have their own slathering of carbon to keep things lightweight. From magnesium brakes and intake manifolds, to fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) and kevlar aero pieces, the automotive world is hooked on a diet plan that is trending faster than you can say “Jenny Craig.”
8. To Hell With Long-range Anxiety
As plug-in electric vehicles gain in popularity, so do the distances they can travel, and that is causing them to trend like never before. The further a car can go on a single charge, the more people are going to seriously consider them as viable alternatives to something like Audi’s recently created e-diesel. It may take some time before battery-powered cars can get the range we need, but in the meantime, cars like the ones listed here will keep Americans talking about them and buying them as they get better at carrying us further down the road.
9. Everyone Wants More For Less
From luxurious facilities at Porsche’s new Atlanta headquarters, to 100,000 mile warranties and unlimited roadside assistance, automakers are doing whatever they can to offer buyers more without adjusting their bottom line. Tech-savvy consumers like Generation Z buyers want all the bells and whistles but at entry-level cost, and horsepower fanatics are sending Dodge for a loop, as everyone suddenly wants a Hellcat since it offers more bang for the buck than anything else out there. The old saying “You get what you pay for” just doesn’t ring true anymore, and as industry advancements make manufacturing cheaper we wouldn’t be surprised to see this trend continue for years to come.
10. Time To Keep On Truckin’
Our final hot trend in the auto world belongs solely to Americans and their love for the pickup truck. A few months back our in-depth report charts and graphs what Americans are buying, and why. Smaller pickups in particular have seen a massive surge recently as they are capable, lightweight, and fuel-efficient all at the same time. With numerous new trends in the segment — diesels, aluminum — expect the pickup trend to stick around for a while yet.