When I arrived at Consumers Digest in 2003 to supervise its fine editorial staff, I began my education into automobiles and the automotive marketplace. I benefited from the knowledge and generosity of automotive experts who served as contributing editors. Thank you, in particular, Jim Gorzelany! (See Jim’s reviews of our automotive Best Buys for the 2018 model year.) I learned from my comrades at Midwest Automotive Media Association and was aided by a multitude of automaker executives. I even gleaned insight from industry press releases—particularly when I read between the lines to seek out slivers of information that prompted scrutiny and questions.
About those press releases: A few times per year, without fail, along will come an automaker’s proclamation that its engineers created the new best vehicle to run on hydrogen, and that the vehicle’s development means that it’s only a matter of time before these automobiles begin to supplant gasoline-powered vehicles. For certain, the technology works; the vehicles are proven. However, the technology has disadvantages, the chief among them, in my humble opinion, being a lack of refueling stations in the United States that likely never will be resolved. I consider anyone who says otherwise to be full of hot air.
Lately, the sexiness of the hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle has taken a back seat to the promise of the self-driving automobile. However, I say the same to this as I do to hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles: Puh-lease! Can I envision a day when vehicle occupants have little or nothing to do with piloting the vehicle? Yes, although I must concede a certain influence by my love for science fiction. Is that day near? No. Several hurdles block the road, with perhaps the tallest one being the millions of existing vehicles that lack the important autonomous capability of being able to “talk” to other vehicles—well more than 200 million. According to one report, the typical automobile that’s on the road in the United States is 11-1/2 years old. It will take many years before the technology can be phased in, so “all” automobiles are sophisticated enough to, for example, tell the vehicle behind it to “slow down, because I’m slowing down.”
Nevertheless, U.S. consumers are bombarded daily with autonomous-vehicle “news.” Not those who turn to Consumers Digest. Of course, we have autonomous-vehicle trends on our radar and have reported on the technology. However, when we dig into trends, we seek to uncover developments that will affect you in the relatively near term, not 17 years hence. Thus, I invite you to read “Auto Trends 2018 & Beyond: Focus on Large SUVs, Midsize Pickups & Four-Cylinder Engines.” This report fleshes out the likelihood that models of large SUVs will become more abundant, that the expansion of the small/midsize pickup segment is right around the corner and that the days of the proliferation of the six-cylinder engine—let alone the V8—are numbered.
In regard to the latter, Bloomberg Intelligence senior automotive analyst Kevin Tynan says “advances in technology really put the V8 in the crosshairs as the next casualty.” For an example, he points to what some might consider to be sacrilegious: Ford equipped its $450,000 GT with a V6 engine. He adds that he believes that a V6 engine for the Chevrolet Corvette isn’t far off.
In addition, Tynan tells Consumers Digest, four-cylinder engines “will displace six-cylinder incumbents of [SUVs] of all shapes and most sizes.”
Will robotic systems displace drivers? Maybe they will, to one degree or another. However, when you seek relevant information that you can apply to your automobile-shopping plans today and tomorrow, we hope that you will continue to turn to us.