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Auto shows preview cars of the future
For more than a century, America’s love affair with automobiles has flourished unlike any other relationship, surpassing even Bogie and Bacall in the category of “legendary romances.”
When Henry Ford’s first Model-T hit the market in 1908, that spark was ignited and it burns brighter today than ever. Much has changed in vehicle design over time, but the call of the open road is the same.
Every year auto shows introduce fascinating trends and design concepts that will soon come to fruition. The 2017 shows are no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the hottest trends that have emerged on trade show floors already this year.
Are you ready to leave the driving to a computer? Automakers, and the likes of Google, are betting you do, pouring millions into development of next-generation vehicles. These are radically different from what we have seen before. Prototypes on display at the auto shows continue to generate as much buzz as any vehicles on exhibit.
Carmakers around the world believe we’ll enthusiastically lay our money down to buy autonomous cars. Autonomous – as in driverless – that can be summoned with a smartphone and directed by powerful onboard computers, GPS systems and the internet. They’ll take us wherever we want to go while napping, preparing for a business meeting, reading a book, chatting on the phone, you name it. Truly autonomous cars are still a work in progress, but there’s no question that we’re steadily advancing toward a day when you can leave the driving to someone – or something – else.
America’s preference for non-standard car body designs have evolved from station wagons to mini-vans to SUVs and now to crossovers, which have been trending upward. Crossovers are utility vehicles built on a car platform, combining many of the features of SUVs with the more comfortable driving characteristics of a car. Automakers are showing multiple designs in this category, which will give consumers dozens of new crossovers to choose from when models go from the exhibit hall floors to dealer showrooms.
According to a recent Washington Post article, Americans bought 5.6 million crossovers in 2016 which accounts for nearly one-third of all new U.S. car sales. General Motors, the nation’s largest automaker, recently reported 2017 first-quarter profits that were the highest in its history. In a story published by Reuters, GM credited the windfall, in large part, to a 12 percent increase in the sale of crossovers.
Other trends of note
In addition to self-driving vehicles, technology is all the rage at auto shows.
Electric vehicles, which still represent a relatively small piece of the market, were on prominent display at recent auto shows and their popularity is growing rapidly. Led by Tesla, first quarter 2017 sales of electric cars in the U.S. jumped 74 percent over the same period last year as reported by Clean Technica.
On the interior, whiz-bang electronics are helping dealers move inventory by merchandising products with computer-based internet devices capable of fulfilling a variety of needs. New vehicles today commonly include live audio and video streaming, navigation, emergency notification capabilities and advanced fuel-economy systems among a host of other features.
Chinese-made autos are on the way
Prominent at the annual Detroit Auto Show earlier this year was Guangzhou Automotive Corporation (GAC), China’s state-owned automaker, which Auto Blog says showed off some very nice-looking models, including cars, SUVs and crossovers. The Chinese models are not available in the U.S. yet, but if all goes according to plan, they will be soon. GAC is looking to establish a research and development facility in North America and is hoping see their brand on U.S. roads as early as next year.
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