The automotive industry continues to innovate, by bringing to the market new models that are stylish, fuel efficient and loaded with the latest technological amenities. In a bid to meet stiffer federal fuel economy mandates, car manufacturers are making greater use of engineering to deliver vehicles that are lighter, smaller and more efficient than ever before. Let’s take a look at five new car trends you’ll see for the 2013 model year.
1. Turbochargers — Until recently, turbocharged cars were few and far between. That’s because such models are more expensive and turbochargers were not as resilient, able to handle the day in and day out punishment that they take. The engineering has certainly improved and today’s turbo engines should hold up for many years to come. That’s what Ford, Hyundai, GM and others are betting on and are rolling out dozens of new turbo models to deliver smaller engines with more power.
2. Transmissions – The standard automatic transmission of the 1990s was a four-speed overdrive. By the end of the 2000s, the six-speed became the de facto measurement for car manufacturers. The six-speed is still used, but manufacturers are now incorporating eight- and nine-speed transmission to deliver even better highway fuel economy. Some manufacturers, such as Nissan, have successfully innovated by using continuously variable transmissions, matching or exceeding the fuel economy of other transmissions and engines.
3. EVs — Electrified vehicles including hybrids have not sold as well as had been hoped. Currently, just over 2 percent of all vehicles sold are EVs. For 2013, you’ll see a greater use of plug-in hybrids as both Toyota and Ford introduce new models. A plug-in Prius and the Ford C-MAX Energi will deliver exceptional fuel economy. Whether customers will be willing to pay a premium price remains to be seen.
4. Carbon fiber – Materials such as carbon fiber are lightweight and durable. But, they are also very expensive. Nonetheless, when used, such materials can cut the weight of cars, helping to deliver improved fuel economy. High-performance race cars use a monocoque chassis assembly consisting of this material. The Lamborghini Aventador uses carbon fiber monocoque; the Ford Motor Company in partnership with Dow Chemicals expects to put carbon fiber into most of its vehicles by 2020.
5. Navigation – If navigation isn’t standard, it is available in nearly every car made today. Today’s navigation systems are quite complex, but with voice activation can be very useful. Some manufacturers such as Renault are integrating TomTom with their systems, while others, such as Hyundai have developed proprietary systems that include 911 assist and emergency notification. Most systems include a rear view camera, bringing in yet one more safety innovation in today’s cars.
New Car Shopping
Consumers shopping for a new car can expect to find new technologies included that weren’t available 10 or even five years ago when they last purchased a new car. Today’s cars are better equipped, more fuel efficient and stylish. Prices have gone up considerably too, which means consumers should be prepared to face sticker shock and to negotiate the best deal possible.
Matthew C. Keegan is a freelance automotive writer. Matt is also a contributing writer for Andy’s Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including MSD Ignition and Sparco Seats.