We’re poised on the edge of an era as Google, Apple, Tesla, and the rest of Silicon Valley bring their resources to bear on the subject of motorized transportation, with the legacy automotive industry focusing its research and development efforts on staying one step ahead of its new competitors.
As we wait to see the results of this potential sea change in automobile technology, we look back to the year that was 2015 and draw what lessons we can from the industry as a whole.
Continued Reign of Crossover SUVs
Crossover SUVs, the smaller sibling to the full-size SUV that reigned during the 1990s and early 2000s, have earned a spot in nearly every automaker’s lineup, and are leading sales for many of those brands, as well. More than sedans, trucks, minivans, sports cars, or station wagons (hey, they’re still around, kind of), the model type that most Americans wanted to buy this year was a crossover.
Smartphone Integration Continues
No matter what model type you bought this year, chances are it came ready to make connecting your iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone (hehe, just kidding, no one has a Windows Phone) as easy as possible. Although automakers still haven’t given up the fight with smartphone makers over whose operating system will rule in the car, many automakers welcomed Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto into the hardware for the first time ever. Expect even more of this in 2016.
Every Engine Gets a Turbocharger
Facing government demands for less fuel burned per mile, many automakers turned to a once-niche technology, the turbocharger, to make smaller engines provide more power. The small blades that make a turbocharger suck in hot air to create thrust have proved exceptional at bringing fuel use down while keeping power high. Even Porsche is putting them into all of its cars now.
Electric Vehicles Increase Driving Range
Electric vehicles have been hamstrung with ranges of less than 100 miles—until now. Thanks to investment from companies like Tesla, electrics in 2016 will be sporting ranges of more than 200 miles, with Porsche working on getting past 300 miles for every full charge and getting charge times down to under 20 minutes. Still not on par with gasoline, but at this rate we wouldn’t expect the fossil fuel to retain its advantages for more than a handful of years.
It’s Impossible to Buy a Bad Car
Finally, the biggest thing we’ve noticed this year is how well even the bare-bones, stripped-down, no-frills models from most brands offer safety, technology, performance, and style at a level that entry-level cars just didn’t do 10 years ago. The big winner here is the consumer who faces an appetizing menu of choices going into this next year.
2016 looks to have many advances in store, and thanks to the involvement of Silicon Valley, we expect cars to see more change in the next four years than we’ve seen in the past 40. We’ll be right here as these changes debut to answer your questions and provide guidance. Looking forward to it!