SEOUL, KOREA - With the 2013 Seoul Motor Show ready to kick off from March 29 to April 7, 2013, questions abound as to which direction the future of automobiles are headed. A partial component of the show itself is surrounding various trends and directions for future vehicles. In order to gain some insight into these trends, a look at the direction the global automobile market is heading may be warranted.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that size is not as important in terms of luxury vehicles as it once was. Whether this is due to the rising costs of fuel, concerns about the environment, or other factors is uncertain, but these days bigger is not necessarily better. Mercedes Benz is installing components normally reserved for their S-Class fleet into smaller models such as the A-class, CLC Coupe, and CLC compact crossover. BMW is moving even further, developing a minicar for European commutes that combines legendary elements generally reserved for BMW’s larger vehicles.
Despite, immense obstacles faced in the global economy including recessions and financial crises, global sales figures in the automotive market broke a record in 2012 with more than 82 million units sold. Comparing this with the 61.2 million units sold globally in 2009, it marks a 34% increase in auto sales over this time. This figure demonstrates record gains by some companies, as well as strong rebounds by others such as General Motors. With car sales projected to continually increase, which companies will be ready to meet this newfound market demand The future will tell.
One possible answer to staking a claim in this newfound market share lies with Korean car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai. As mentioned above, the last few years have demonstrated a strong rebound for many automakers including General Motors. On top of this, Kia and Hyundai displayed monumental gains by securing double digit growth in a slew of major markets, including Western Europe which generally shows an aversion to East Asian auto manufacturers, rather electing for more conventional European automakers. As a result of this unprecedented growth beginning in 2011 and continuing today, Hyundai and Kia were able to leapfrog a number of competitors and move into the number five position in terms of the world’s largest car manufacturers, certainly no small feat. In fact, many analysts predict that it is very possible that Hyundai and Kia could become the world’s number one carmaker in the future if they are able to navigate some potential obstacles. These possible road blocks include diverging Kia and Hyundai into two different brands that are not competing for the same market share, and increasing desirability to encourage people to purchase these cars out of an emotional connection rather than a solely practical decision.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a discussion on automotive trends without touching on technology. As the world becomes more streamlined during the smart era, consumers are demanding increasingly technical components from their cars. In return, automakers are listening, and as GPS and navigation systems have transitioned from luxury item to commonplace, many auto manufactures have their eyes set on the future. Self-driving technology, parking guidance, lane departure warnings, and blind spot alerts are just a few of the high-tech safety functions that consumers can expect to see more of in 2013.
Lastly, 2013 is showing promise in terms of putting the focus of hybrids back into the mainstream. Long viewed with skepticism by consumers who are accustomed to conventional automobiles, it appears as though the trends are showing that many consumers are becoming increasingly willing to try hybrid technology. With electric cars having difficulty gaining momentum in terms of market share, compact, subcompact, and hybrids are set to establish a stronger foothold in 2013.
Which of these trends will be on display at the Seoul Motor Show 2013 We will have to stay tuned and see.