Emerging automotive trends to lookout for

Dubai - The world around us is changing at a faster rate than ever and the automotive sector is no different!



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Wed 8 Dec 2021, 6:36 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Dec 2021, 6:49 PM

The cars we drive today aren’t like the ones our parents drove; and certainly, a lot different from those our grandparents travelled in. With every year, era or generation of a vehicle, automotive manufacturers adopt changes that affect the way vehicles are manufactured, sold and even driven. Some become sweeping trends that revolutionise the industry altogether, while others are better forgotten. This week, we take a closer look at a mixed bag of some of the more influential trends in the automotive industry. And we begin with…

Age of the SUV

The SUV segment that was once dominated by traditional manufacturers like Jeep, Land Rover, Ford and Toyota is now ‘fair game’. All manufacturers want a piece of that very lucrative pie.

In 1999, when BMW launched the X5, people scoffed at the German SUV. More than two decades later, the X5 is, in some eyes, the ‘king of the road’. And in that time, almost every manufacturer has added one or multiple SUVs or crossover SUVs to their range. Even premium European automakers that previously produced only luxury chauffeur-driven sedans and sports cars and probably thought of SUVs as too ‘blue collar’ have joined the bandwagon. Some examples are Maserati with the Levante, Lamborghini with the Urus, Aston Martin with the DBX, Bentley with the Bentayga and Rolls-Royce with the Cullinan.

Why are SUVs popular? Besides the obvious additional cargo space and commanding driving position, the apparent feeling of safety is probably why consumers are flocking towards SUVs.

Electric & hybrid drivetrains

The news on climate change has been on our TV screens and in our newspapers for many decades now. And although it has taken forever, the work surrounding it, i.e. the development of sustainable design and manufacturing, has finally come to fruition in the mass market. One such result is the introduction of the ZEVs (Zero Emission Vehicles) like electric vehicles and PZEVs (Partial Zero Emission Vehicles) like hybrid vehicles.

In this segment, Toyota’s been successful for almost two decades with the Prius hybrid range. Recently, Tesla has led the way with the premium range of EVs. Even the American manufacturer Jeep, known for building rugged, gasoline-powered recreational vehicles, now has a plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe in the range. Who’d have thought the day would come?

Downsizing and turbocharging

Probably the most popular slogan in the auto industry is “no replacement for displacement”. Manufacturers, enthusiasts, motorsport teams and even the common buyer rejoiced in the option of a larger engine in their automobiles. Larger displacements meant more torque and more power. But now things are taking a new direction. Manufacturers are dropping engine capacity and cylinder numbers for small displacement turbocharged engines. Whilst the latter still qualifies as ICE or an Internal Combustion Engine, they are more advantageous than their naturally aspirated brethren. They deliver on the promise of power, whilst keeping weight and fuel economy lower. In the North American market, the Nissan X-Trail is now available with a turbocharged 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine under the hood, where once you would have found a larger 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine. A sportier example is the BMW M5. The E60 model built from 2004 to 2010 has a 500 horse 5.0-litre V10. The latest iteration of the M5 — codenamed F90 — has a 600 bhp+ twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8. Again, smaller but more potent!

Halogen to LED lighting

For the longest time, manufacturers used halogen headlights in vehicles to illuminate the tarmac. These units aren’t as nearly as bright as the xenon headlamps that came later. But now most of the manufacturers have turned or are turning to LED technology for both road illumination and interior lighting. LED lamps consume lesser energy and shine brighter and farther. And on the insides of the vehicle, the technical flexibility of LEDs allow for a choice of hues for ambient lighting within the cabin. While we see LEDs as the dominant technology for the foreseeable future, the future soon after could be all about LASER lighting. This cutting-edge piece of tech significantly makes the light fixture more compact than ever, and is capable of throwing light further down the road, as showcased by Audi in the A8 sedan. While it may not be mass market ready yet, the thought of science fiction technology making way to everyday lives is rather amusing!

Vehicles are larger and heavier

You may or may not have noticed it, but vehicles are quite large these days and certainly larger than their predecessors. All vehicles, without exclusions, have grown with every generation. The original MINI from the 1960s was just 3,054-mm in length, 1,270-mm in width and 1,346-mm in height…or thereabouts. And it weighed just some 600 kilograms or so. If you purchase a 2022 YM MINI Cooper today, you’d end up with something that is significantly larger and weighs roughly twice as much. This is not exclusive to MINI. The current crop of 3-Series sedans are nearly as long as the full-size 7-Series sedans from the 90s; and the 2022 Honda Civic is actually larger than the Honda Accord from the 80s.

Digital purchasing

The old-fashioned way was to stroll into a showroom, pick one from the stock available or order one. Now, we are able to check stock in real time and compare prices between distributors even on our phones. And companies like Tesla and third-party firms like Canada Drives have taken it up a notch. Through their portals you can both buy the vehicle online and get it shipped to your doorstep without a problem. Also, in March 2021, the flamboyant Tesla CEO Elon Musk had tweeted that the EV car manufacturer would accept the most popular and largest cryptocurrency Bitcoin as payment for purchasing their electric vehicles. Other manufacturers may follow.

Dispassion for driving

Back in the day, getting driver’s licence was the rite of passage for the youth. But now Generation Z and even millennials think otherwise. Fewer and fewer individuals are choosing to apply for their driver’s licence. Some of it has to do with the increasing access to different forms of short-distance mobility like electric scooters and ebikes; while some are siding with ‘Green Peace’ ethos and prefer taking public transport. But we believe a lot has to do with a growing dispassion for the act of driving itself. After all, the pictures we paint are often associated with being stuck in traffic. Also, the world is much smaller space now. Before you needed to step out to see a friend. Now we have the world at your fingertips through our smartphones and televisions.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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