What's to come
The year in autos 2012 brought a recession in Japan, recovery in the U.S., and recalls everywhere. Volkswagen reigned supreme in Europe while General Motors stayed on top in the U.S. — but Toyota reclaimed the Number One spot worldwide. Next year is looking equally eventful. Here are a few guesses — some serious and some not so serious — about what to expect in MotorWorld in 2013:
Still smarting from consumer rejection of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, GM celebrates a win for the 2013 Cadillac ATS (above) as North American Car of the Year. The automaker immediately launches a full-court publicity blitz to snare the 2014 award for the Chevrolet Corvette.
Troubled startup Fisker Automotive seeks to form a strategic partnership with either a Chinese automaker or a Chinese battery maker so it can continue to market its made-in-Finland hybrids. Meanwhile, uncertain about the demand for his $100,000 electric sedan causes Tesla founder Elon Musk to refinance his $475 million U.S. loan and sell advertising space on his SpaceX rockets.
At the Geneva auto show, Ferrari introduces its new F70, with an 800 horsepower V-12 gas engine boosted by a 120 hp hybrid motor. Since Ferrari screens buyers more closely than a New York City co-op, every single F70 built will be immediately driven into a private collection, and none will ever be seen on a public highway.
At the opening of trout season, Mercedes-Benz boosts sales of its $75,000 CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake by equipping each car with a pair of Barbour jackets, Wellies, and two $3,000 graphite fly rods. The special promotion becomes necessary when buyers discover what Motor Trend did: an equivalent Mercedes E-Class wagon with some 14 cubic feet more cargo space sells for around $16,000 less.
GM finally starts building its 2014 pickups after revealing them to the public five months earlier — only to discover it still has hundreds of thousands of unsold 2013 models on hand. The resulting incentive binge is the largest since Lee Iacocca’s “Buy a Car, Get a Check” campaign for Chrysler in the late 1970s.
BMW, home of the 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 series cars, decides to start using fractions for future model designations as it downsizes its product line. Unfortunately for prospective buyers, prices remain denominated in thousands of dollars.
In an effort to build street cred for the new Corvette, Chevrolet loans one to BBC’s Top Gear for track testing. Host Jeremy Clarkson discovers the Corvette is faster than a locomotive and more powerful than a speeding bullet but still has worse seats and flimsier switches than a 1970 Triumph Stag.
Blistering sales of the new Volkswagen Golf in Europe support analyst Max Warburton’s prediction that VW will own 33% of the market there by 2020. The Bernstein Research analyst also predicts that Opel will collapse, and that Fiat will arrange a hasty sale of Alfa Romeo to VW before VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, 75, departs the scene.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show, Peugeot, Renault, and Fiat concede defeat and form a new car company that will focus on small cars for the southern European market and be based in Nice. Its first products will be a successor to the Renault Twingo and a Europeanized version of Tata’s Nano.
Taking inspiration from BMW’s success with model spinoffs from the Mini Cooper, Chrysler reveals new versions of the Fiat 500 in addition to the four-door sedan already disclosed: a station wagon, minivan, SUV, and a pickup truck. It will also begin marketing unfinished 500 chassis to customizers for conversion into eight-door limos.
The arrival of the 2014 SRT Viper gives every automotive website the clever idea of staging a head-to-head competition with the new Corvette. But with advertising from two major manufacturers at stake, every contest ends in a dead heat.