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Top automotive trends for 2013

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The year 2012 brought about a lot of new and very pleasant surprises from big names such as Toyota, the launch of super-luxury exotic brands such as Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati, the return of Peugeot, and Mitsubishi’s impressive answer in the small-car segment, the Mirage.

So what’s to look forward to for in 2013? We gathered some thoughts from industry experts, consumers, enthusiasts and market analysts and here’s what’s in store for this year:

1.) People carriers and MPV’s. 2013 will see more five-to seven-seat people carriers and MPVs gaining in popularity. More and more young, new families will outgrow their subcompact and compact sedans in the A, B and C-segments respectively, but cannot afford a full-size van, nine- to 12-seater van. These people will also require a vehicle small enough to fit in most condominium and townhouse carports, which again rules out a full-size van. They don’t want the height and bulk of an SUV, but crucially, will want a far more sophisticated and car-like driving experience. Hence, MPVs will gain in popularity in 2013. KIA’s all-new Carens, launching soon, and Peugeot’s 3008 five-seat MPV are positioned perfectly to take advantage of this growing trend.

2.) Sports cars and performance cars. 2012 saw the launch of the Toyota 86, the Subaru BR-Z and, to more sophisticated sports car buyers, the Peugeot RC-Z. All three cars are sports cars, but a far cry from the tens of millions associated with such a vehicle. More people will be buying more sports cars, as a greater number of people become more sophisticated in their tastes and want to indulge, the baby boomers are coming into retirement age and the Generation X, weaned in an era of the Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Testarossa posters hanging beside pinups of Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson and Claudia Schiffer, finally get into serious money, allowing both generations to get into cars. The Generation X, in particular, are unbounded by conservatism that might have been the norm during their parents’ era, whereas the retiring baby boomers, surrounded by modern muscle cars such as the Mustang and Camaro, finally find the courage (and money) to indulge in their automotive fantasies with these modern interpretations of an American icon, the symbol of the good life a lifetime ago. Generation X, meanwhile, will start looking at Japanese sports cars.

3.) Cross-overs, small SUVs. SUVs are still growing in popularity alongside local tourism and the healthy outdoor lifestyle. SUVs are popular transport devices for people with expensive bicycles to out-of-town biking trails. With more and more roads and highways being developed, and the increased OEM fitment of GPS/SATNAV systems into brand-new locally available cars, more and more people are traveling locally, more than ever, to varied destinations, some to well-known destinations, and others off the beaten path. These will differ from traditional ladder-frame-based SUVs because the latter are not as roomy, refined and sophisticated as cross-over SUVs. The increased threat of flash floods brought about by monsoon rains and typhoons (the habagat rains of 2012 come to mind) will also no doubt increase preferences for tall-riding vehicles. Cue Honda’s CR-V, Subaru’s soon-to-be-launched all-new Forester, and Toyota’s upcoming all-new RAV4 to be ready to pounce on the market.

4.) Diesels in premium luxury vehicles. While the public perception of diesel is that of a smelly, smoky, dirty and noisy industrial/agricultural vehicle, the reality is that the vast majority of engine technology advancements in the past decade have been in diesel engines. It’s a perfect match: the heavy weight of luxo limousines and premium SUVs loaded with technology and safety features matched with the effortless power and immediate torque of diesels makes for smooth yet equally rapid progress, and at the same time is far more cost-effective to run, as diesels are inherently more fuel-efficient compared to gasoline, and cost cheaper per liter, per kilometer as well. A match made in heaven. Audi is the premier European manufacturer that offers diesel in its complete line-up of cars. BMW follows closely, with an invigorated Mercedes-Benz line-up trailing closely as well.

5.) Environmentally friendly cars. In years past, people bought fuel-efficient cars that, as a consequence, were environmentally friendly. But now, more and more people are making a conscious effort to buy environmentally friendly cars that also happen to be fuel-efficient. The difference is that the main criterion and the consequence have switched places. 2012 was the year more and more Filipinos became much more environmentally conscious and aware of the things around them, changing their perspective on the environment and the limited natural resources. It’s not just a cost issue anymore, but a growing moral consciousness to be thriftier when it comes to using our very limited natural resources. If and when the hybrid law is passed, hopefully soon in 2013, the country will see a new wave of hybrid vehicles being available for sale, and the average hybrid vehicle will have its price drop by 20-30 percent according to legal experts familiar with the hopefully-soon-to-be-passed law, which ideally should be implemented immediately. Honda’s CR-Z and Insight are just about ready to have their curtains raised once the hybrid law is passed.

6.) Greater mobile device integration with your vehicle. Bluetooth telephony and music streaming from your mobile device onto your vehicle’s multi-media system is just the start. Expect more connectivity and integration with your vehicle’s on-board electronics and your mobile device. The aftermarket now offers Bluetooth connectivity for your car’s on-board diagnostic equipment to your mobile device as well. It is a very real possibility that you can stream information from your car’s multi-media system onto your mobile device very soon as well, with more and more vehicles being OEM-equipped with GPS/SATNAV and complete multi-media system (CD/DVD/SD card/USB player/audio-video player). AVT is the largest supplier of these multi-media systems for OEM; they are starting to release retrofit kits for older cars as well.

7.) Strong demand for aftermarket parts. In the aftermarket, bling-sized wheels will experience a down-low, replaced with slightly smaller, but more performance-oriented wheels and tires. Licorice-thin wheels might become unfashionable. HID/Xenon headlamps will soon be replaced by less complicated, cheaper, and easier to fit LED lighting systems that mimic the European brands (though not as powerful/bright), and with advancements in ECU tuning, increased know-how in engine building techniques and the weakened US and European Economies coupled with a dropping US Dollar, aftermarket parts even from big-name brands will become more affordable and readily accessible as fewer people in the West are likely to be buying on non-essentials. Bodykits will once again come into vogue, but not the outlandish, tacky, weird and downright ugly types; rather, we’ll see many new, daring, aggressive but ultimately subtle and more purposeful, performance-oriented designs come out. TRA Kyoto/Rocket Bunny’s bodykit for the Toyota 86/Subaru BR-Z is a very good example of this.

So what do you think will be the other trends for 2013? Send your thoughts to botchilah@yahoo.com and let’s talk about it!


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