Self-driving cars are coming. Thanks to visions of Skynet and Terminators, this is a frightening proposition to many people. Rather than being seen as an unparalleled convenience, autonomous cars have often been viewed as a soul-sucking leech on the driving experience. But that’s a shame, because if you begin to see cars as appliances, the appeal of an autonomous automobile is enormous.
CarGurus was honored to attend yesterday’s press preview of the 2016 New England International Auto Show. With more than 600 cars from 37 manufacturers valued at over $22 million, we were able to see and get into a bunch of brand-new vehicles for the first time. The show offers any car fan with an interest in new vehicles an unbeatable opportunity to take a close look at and ask experts questions about the wide world of cars available to American buyers.
Welcome to 2016, friends.
If the Chinese did their calendar correctly, this would have been the year of the car. I mean, the year of the monkey is all well and good, but 2016 will be among the best in a long time as far as new car debuts go.
There are a few cars, though, that aren’t available yet but should set the pace for excitement in 2016. Are you ready for these?
California State Highway 74 climbs out of Palm Springs, writhing into the mountains with immaculate blacktop, sweeping curves, and grand vistas. I’ve never driven this road before, yet I’m tackling every bend, curve, and kink in it like I’m a local. Capable cars have a way of instilling such confidence in their drivers.
From behind the wheel of the Lexus GS, a midsize luxury sedan that struggles to compete against the heavy hitters in this segment from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it’s clear that Lexus deserves more consideration than it gets. The automaker isn’t just about the cushy ES cruiser or the popular RX crossover SUV. Not anymore, anyway. And the funny thing is, it’s the gas-electric GS 450h that’s making me feel like a champion high above Palm Springs.
The odds are pretty good that you’ll purchase a plug-in electric or hybrid vehicle within the next four years.
Why am I so confident?
Here’s a short rundown of companies that have announced major plans for electric cars by 2020:
- Tesla will be in production with the Model S, Model X, and Model 3
- Porsche will be in production of the Mission E Concept
- Volvo expects to add plug-in hybrid vehicles to its entire range
- Audi says 25 percent of its range will eventually be electric
- Nissan wants to rule the EV mass market
And now, Ford is investing $4.5 billion into electric vehicles so it’ll have 13 EV models by, you guessed it, 2020.
The electric revolution got another dose of support late last week.
Considering how much media coverage electric cars get, a person would be forgiven for thinking EVs constitute a somewhat hefty portion of car sales. The truth, however, is that the market for plug-in electric cars in the United States is ridiculously small.
Through the first nine months of 2015, EVs accounted for only .62 percent of new car sales. Yes, the market share for electric cars is currently well below one percent.
That number should rise as more automakers provide more options and as the logistical issues of limited range and a lack of charging stations are addressed.
But who will step up and cater to such a small market?
A huge lawsuit against ten of the world’s largest automakers was quietly filed last summer.
The suit claims at least 13 people have died due to a major safety defect in automobiles made by BMW/MINI, Mercedes-Benz, FIAT/Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda/Acura, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan/Infiniti, Toyota/Lexus, and Volkswagen/Bentley.
The issue has nothing to do with airbags, faulty ignitions, or sudden unintended acceleration. The problem is with a system we all take for granted that no one thought could end up killing people.
The Start/Stop button.
The first electric cars were invented in the 1880s but only began to quietly infiltrate the car market this decade. It has taken well over 100 years of fossil fuel usage, and one major diesel crisis, but electric cars are finally beginning their reign in the auto market.
Read through the history of electric cars and you’ll read about gas-electric hybrids, a Porsche electric, and the struggle to create better batteries at the turn of the 20th century. Electric technology was clean and the cars were easy to drive, yet electric technology gave way to gasoline and development in the electric field completely stopped for a long time. Today we’re picking up where electrics left off, albeit with a century of improved automotive technology behind us.
This time the world is ready for electrics. At least that’s the hope for a new electric automaker with deep pockets and ambitious dreams. The question is, who is it?
It’s about time that a little shot of arrogance gets injected back into the auto industry.
There’s been a lot of apologizing lately, with the whole Volkswagen fiasco and an unending string of recalls. Where’s the company that comes in and unapologetically announces its wares and walks with an air of confidence while proudly showing the cars it knows you just have to have?
There’s only one currently doing that. Well, okay, maybe two. We could make the argument that Tesla fits into that description, but today our attention turns to another electric automaker. This one had an epic launch failure in recent years, but its new owners have revamped it into something it knows you want. And if you don’t want it?
This company has absolutely zero cares to give.
Hondas are known for their practicality. Ask anyone to describe a Honda in one word, and you’ll get responses such as, “reliable,” “safe,” “comfortable,” and of course, “practical.”
Honda is one of those quiet innovators in the car world. While its cars indeed fit the above adjectives, Honda is perfectly capable of unleashing a true performance car upon the world when it feels so inclined.
With the all-new hybrid-powered NSX ready to jump off the line, Honda might have a little something else special planned as well.
It probably won’t come cheap, though.