Where we take both a serious and lighthearted look at what's headed down the assembly line in the coming year.

January 06, 2014

Making predictions for the year ahead is always a hazardous business, by its nature dependent on the good will of readers, not to mention short memories. Stuff happens that confounds even the most imaginative forecasts. Predicting that Mary Barra was headed for the CEO job at GM GM was relatively pothole-free, although the December timing took most people by surprise. But who would have guessed that one of Detroit’s Rust Belt executives, Ford’s Alan Mulally, would emerge as the leading candidate to run tech giant Microsoft MSFT — especially after all the trouble Ford F has had integrating Microsoft technology in its MyTouch instrument panel control system? With those caveats in mind, here are some guesses about what awaits MotorWorld in the year ahead — some serious, others in an “anything can happen” spirit.

1. The rebound continues

Car and truck sales will grow to 16.4 million in 2014, up from 15.5 million in 2013, according to forecasts by Edmunds.com. That would be the most vehicles sold since 2006, but lower than the number sold annually between 2002 and 2005.

A row of 2014 Ford Explorer, left, and Ford Escape vehicles, right, sit on display at Uftring Ford in East Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

2. Cheaper fuel

Gasoline prices will decline to an average of $3.43 per gallon, say various sources, thanks to higher production and lower demand. Consumers will have even less incentive to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, forcing the Obama Administration to start moving in the goalposts on its 54.5 mpg fuel economy standard for 2025.

3. From Motown to Microsoft

Alan Mulally moves back to Seattle from Dearborn, reviving old jokes about what would happen to automobiles if Microsoft made them: “You would have to buy a new car every time they repainted the center lines,” or “Your car would crash twice a day for no particular reason,” or “Your airbag system would ask, ‘Are you sure?’ before deploying.”

Ford Motors President and CEO Alan Mulully poses for a photo at the Bloomberg office in Bangkok on Tuesday March 26, 2013. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

4. A clean sweep

General Motors sweeps 2014 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards for “outstanding innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction, and value” with the Cadillac CTS (above) and Chevrolet Silverado. Though it is not included in the criteria, GM could also win for “most improved.”

The all-new 2014 Cadillac CTS sedan ascends into the heart of the midsize luxury sedan segment, offering more interior space, power and technology with more than 20 new standard features compared with the 2013 model. The new CTS is five inches longer, one inch lower, and 244 pounds lighter, and will offer three different engine options including Cadillac’s first Twin Turbo, the highest power density of any V6 ever produced by Cadillac.

5. Her work cut out for her

New GM CEO Mary Barra spends her first six months in office saying “no” to appearances with Ginni Rometty, Hillary Clinton, and Meryl Streep; keynote speeches at women’s summits; and suggestions from diehard car buffs that GM build a new electric car; revive Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Saturn; and bring back tailfins.

6. His work cut out for him

CEO-in-waiting Mark Fields takes over after a year in which Ford recorded healthy retail sales, but the Lincoln MKZ stalled at the starting line, the Escape crossover was recalled for a seventh time, and GM shares outperformed Ford stock with a 42% to 17% gain.

during the 2013 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. The Detroit auto show runs through Jan. 27 and will display over 500 vehicles, representing the most innovative designs in the world. Photographer: David Paul MorrisBloomberg

7. Off-duty cabs

The future of Nissan’s Taxi of Tomorrow for New York City is dealt a fatal blow by new mayor Bill de Blasio when he declines to overturn a hybrid motor regulation. His decision consigns riders to uncomfortable trips in the two-most-used yellow cabs: aging Ford Crown Victorias and discontinued Ford Escape hybrids.

8. Cadillac style

Now that the 2014 Ford Mustang has been officially revealed, the motoring press turns its attention to uncovering details about the rumored V-8 powered Cadillac flagship sedan with over-the-top styling lifted from the Elmiraj concept car (above). Unmoved however, luxury car buyers in New York and California vow they will give up their Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis only when they are pried out of their cold dead hands.

9. Stay classy

Dodge’s breakout success using Ron Burgundy to promote the Durango SUV leads to copycat campaigns starring John McClane for the Chevrolet SS, Indiana Jones for Range Rover, and Ironman for the Toyota Prius, while Subaru threatens to bring back Crocodile Dundee.

10. Musk's many suitors

Ford is rumored to be buying Tesla. So are GM, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Chery. Elon Musk says he won’t agree to a sale until Hell freezes over — and then merges with Fiat-Chrysler.

Elon Musk, billionaire, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., poses for a photograph inside the Tesla store at Westfield Stratford City retail complex in London, U.K., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Tesla, the electric-car maker led by Musk, had its first quarterly profits this year with a boost from selling California pollution credits. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk

11. Management moves: Renault-Nissan

After overhauling his management teams in 2011, 2012, and 2013, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, 59, does so again in 2014 as he chases his impossible dream of 10% U.S. and 8% global market share.

12. Management moves: Daimler

With his contract due to expire at the end of 2015 and two ambitious engineers jousting to succeed him, Daimler and Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche, 60, starts work on his memoir, The Chrysler Years: 2000-2006.

Dieter Zetsche, chief executive officer of Daimler AG, speaks during the unveiling of companyÕs new Daimler AG Mercedes- Benz S-Class automobiles in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013.

13. Management moves: Volkswagen

After acquiring Lamborghini, Porsche, and Ducati, Ferdinand Piech, chairman of the Volkswagen Group, 76, solidifies his legacy as an industry genius by buying Alfa Romeo from Fiat and merging its operations with Ducati, the motorbike maker he acquired in 2012.

Ferdinand Piech, chairman of Volkswagen AG, passes through a display of automobiles at the company's annual general meeting (AGM) in Hanover, Germany, on Thursday, April 25, 2013. . Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ferdinand Piech
VW board chairman Ferdinand Piech has approached Fiat's John Elkann about a possible deal, according to a German report.

14. China stalls out again

Recall this Fox News headline from May 12, 2009: REPORT: GM TO SELL CHINESE CARS IN THE U.S. The story references a leaked report that GM planned to sell nearly 18,000 Chinese-made vehicles in America in 2011, with that number rising to over 50,000 by 2014. Well, no. GM didn’t sell any cars made in China in 2011, 2012, or 2013, and safety and quality standards mean that no Chinese cars by any manufacturer — American, European, or Chinese — will be coming to the U.S. in 2014 either.

Who needs Fiat Chrysler?

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