We have to admit, 2009 sucked for just about everyone. Everyone, that is, who didn’t go bankrupt and fall back on billions of dollars of government money. For the rest of us, it was a year of saving money and cutting back to one Starbucks a day. But hey, we have to make sacrifices, right?
We all hope 2010 will be better, and it’s already looking up. I’m not ready to say it’ll be all beer and Skittles, but I do think we’ll see improvements over last year. How will the auto industry adapt? Here’s what I predict will change in the coming year, and beyond. Strap in, this is a wild ride.
1. The Camaro sinks
Yeah, the Camaro outsold the Mustang in every month they were both on sale together in 2009. But there are only so many die-hard Camaro fans, and they’ve all made their purchase already. Watch for sinking sales numbers as the Mustang only gets more popular.
2. Micro cars sputter
As much as the federal government will hate to see this, Americans won’t buy tiny cars in mass quantities. Ford will sell a few Fiestas, and Chrysler will sell a few Fiat 500s (on novelty alone). The small-car market will stick around, but it won’t be enough to change our buying patterns.
3. Gas prices stay the same
Or go down. I don’t think we’ll see $4 gas again anytime soon, which means Americans won’t buy many micro cars. We’ll keep right on being happy with the 20 miles per gallon our sedans and small SUVs get.
It won’t take long for people with some common sense to decide these slope-backed nonsense CUVs aren’t good for anything beyond heading to the local grocery store for a quart of Haagen Dazs. Try to load in the patio furniture that’s on sale at the Home Depot, and you’ll quickly be calling to borrow a friend’s Honda Pilot.
5. The non-traditional sedan takes off
And by this I mean cars like the Porsche Panamera. Yeah, that car has caused some controversy, but it won’t be long before less-expensive copies begin showing up. Sedans with added cargo space and a hatchback rear end are the future! Embrace it.
6. GM becomes niche automaker of trucks and sports cars
The government wants GM to make smaller cars. The public isn’t going to want smaller cars. GM will have to keep selling its Camaro, Corvette, CTS-V, and Silverado to have any hope of paying back its federal loans.
7. Chrysler’s comeback fails
Fiat’s going to give it a valiant effort, but in the end it’ll be too little too late, and Fiat will cut its losses and bail.
8. Hyundai and Kia lead America’s sales charts
A heavy value proposition goes a long way these days, and no automotive company offers more value than Hyundai/Kia. Both are strengthening their U.S. presence and building a reputation for quality and longevity. Look for the Koreans to enter the list of top 10 sellers in America!
9. Toyota and Nissan go back to compact pickup market, give up on full-size trucks
Obviously, American auto companies excel at one thing: the pickup. Nissan’s Titan can’t compete, and now the Toyota Tundra is falling prey to rust problems. Neither can compete with the perennial best-sellers F-150, Silverado, and Ram. Look for Toyota and Nissan to downsize the Tacoma and Frontier.
10. The Chevy Volt works, but doesn’t sell
Kudos to GM! It successfully builds and releases (finally) the hyped Volt, and it lives up to expectations. Trouble is, gas is only $2.50 per gallon, and no one can justify paying $40,000 for a small family sedan. Hate to say it, but the Volt could go the way of the EV1. With luck a Cadillac version (the Converj?) will hold on as a top-quality eco-toy until the market truly demands electric vehicles.
Think I’m wrong on any of this? Want to agree with any predictions here? Let’s talk about it in the comments section!