’s predictions for 2017

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Author: | Updated: 23 Dec 2016 11:25

It’s time to dust off the crystal ball and peer into the future to see what lies ahead for the world of cars. Of course, we cannot guarantee any of the following will happen, but these are the five things that we predict will define the automotive world in 2017.


Car sales will stall, but not sharply fall

So, the first thing to appear through the mists of our look into the future is car registrations. It wasn’t that long ago that many experts were predicting we’d see UK car sales hit the three million mark in the coming 12 months – that would be a record for the UK and put us a very close second behind Germany as the main market for new cars in Europe. Now many dealers are predicting new car sales could fall by 10% in 2017.

Given the uncertainty that has surrounded Brexit as well as car makers in the UK striking behind-the-doors deals with the government, we’re not sure sales will reach the magic three million. But we’re not predicting anything as drastic as a 10% decline will happen either. We forecast car registrations will be more or less similar to 2016, but with fewer private registrations and more consumers turning to leasing, of course.

Car sales will stall, but not sharply fall

Nissan will continue to build a majority of their models in Sunderland

One factor in this positive outlook, and one many forecasters only tacitly acknowledge, is we love a new car. This is much more the case in the UK than any other European country and perhaps only outstripped by the US and some Arab states. Show us a new car and one that grabs our fancy, and we’ll be queuing up to get our names down. Brexit or no Brexit.

Make or break for Tesla

Speaking of new cars, there’s one that will be the talk of 2017 and which also happens to be the machine that will decide whether its maker breaks into the mainstream or remains an exciting but marginal player. That car is the Tesla Model 3.

Make or break for Tesla

The Tesla Model 3 is a car designed for the masses

Unlike its larger S brother, the 3 is aimed squarely at the vast majority of car buyers looking for something mid-sized, affordable and practical when it comes to an electric car. We should applaud Tesla and its owner Elon Musk for taking on such as task. Not since Tucker tried to outdo the big guns of US car manufacture in the 1940s has a company stuck it to the major factories with such stiletto precision.

What sets the Model 3 apart is not only a price tag that should put it into contention with the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Volkswagen Golf, but a battery range to end all concerns about charging on the move once and for all. Be in no doubt, the Model 3 is the car that could make electric vehicles a go-to choice for many who would otherwise stick with a petrol, diesel or hybrid.

There’s a lot riding on this car for Tesla and its owner too

There’s a lot riding on this car for Tesla and its owner too. They have built an enormous ‘Gigafactory’ to manufacture the Model 3 in huge numbers, so it needs the sales to justify the creation of this massive solar-powered shed in the western US desert.

If Tesla gets it right, and there’s a good chance it will, this time next year we could be looking at a very different automotive landscape going forward.

Acceleration of autonomy

That landscape will also feature far greater autonomy than most expected at this stage in the technology’s development. Yes, we’ve become accustomed to autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control and even some cars being able to steer themselves in certain circumstances.

But do you want to know what will make the biggest changes? It’s not the technologies but the legislation surrounding them. This shift is already underway, with the State of Michigan in the US passing laws to allow the testing of driverless autonomous vehicles on public roads.

How momentous this is can be gauged by the fact that Michigan is home to Detroit aka ‘the Motor City’. With the ‘Big Three’ car makers as the state’s main employers, it’s not some bold legislation to gee them up either, it’s being done with their approval and encouragement. When Chrysler, Ford and GM say they want autonomous vehicles, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that’s what we’re going to get.

New cars will continue to excite

If all of this sounds like the death knell for cars we can drive and enjoy, don’t be downhearted. 2017 is also set to deliver a bumper crop of great driver’s cars. We get off to a great start with the arrival of the Mazda MX-5 RF which promises to offer all the upsides of a roadster with all the benefits of a coupe. It’s also very light, so it will serve up the same driving dynamics as the existing roadster.

New cars will continue to excite

We can’t wait to drive the Mazda MX-5 RF

Other cars to keep an eye out for include the next Nissan Micra which looks to be a radical departure from its maligned predecessor, while a new Ford Fiesta also promises greatness for the masses. On top of that, there are plenty of seriously driver-focused machines coming, including the Alpine-Renault, Honda Civic Type R and the Kia GT. That’s not to mention the usual crop of drool-worthy cars, coupes, roadsters and supercars from all of the usual big names in the performance circles.

The dying of the traditional bricks and mortar dealership

And our final prediction for 2017? Well, that will be how we get our hands on all of these new cars.

It’s not the end for the traditional dealership just yet, but we expect a shift over the next 12 months towards omni-channel retail – the current buzzword which places the channel-hopping consumer at the centre of the marketing strategy.

The advent of car configurators and online stores has been embraced and there will be a continued movement towards purely digital transactions. But as part of the shift away from expensive-to-run car showrooms, 2017 could be the year of the pop-up shop, with malls becoming the new battleground for your business.

Traditional dealership visit.

Will 2017 change how we lease?

Car companies are quickly coming around to the idea that it’s good business to sell to people when they are in this frame of mind. And where better to appeal to our shopping impulse than in those pantheons to consumerism – the shopping centre.

Of course, it all comes down to moving more metal, but this year promises to show us much more clearly how that is going to work. Welcome to 2017.

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