AutomobilityLA 2018 left us with a vision of where automotive 2019 is going — more in-vehicle experiences. Getting from Point A to Point B in unique, cool and riveting ways will always be key to what drives (no pun intended) car show previews, but instead of wowing attendees with last year’s spectacles — VR exhibits featuring upcoming film premieres, DJ’s spinning tunes so loud it felt like a death metal concert, customized truffles — measured and focused “User Experience” and “User Engagement” presentations ruled the conference.
It got us thinking how the days of luxury that defined such brands as Lincoln, Cadillac, Bentley, and Rolls Royce have grown beyond the real wood dashboard and gold-plated tuning knobs. Accessible indulgence makes the entire experience feel like today’s driver is being taken into consideration with car production in a wholly immersive way.
We’re not ones to usually opine here — our goal at v2gov.com is to present you “Just the facts, ma’am.” In our new year’s article, however, we decided you might like to know what we feel automotive 2019 holds based on what we experienced at AutomobilityLA 2018.
Road Tripping for Automotive 2019
Yes, we know. Road trips have been around since there were, well, roads, but they haven’t always been in vogue for a variety of reasons — gas prices, slow economies, fascination with the friendly skies, etc. Over the last few years, however, we’ve noticed a great deal of emphasis placed on the revival of the Airstream Trailer, glamping, and turning the proverbial road trip into something that more people are willing to do even — and sometimes especially — if they only have a few days.
All of this is very appealing to Millennials and Generation Zers, consumers of choice for carmakers, especially with the drop in auto ownership across those two markets. There was so much shown at the conference that supported this continuing trend — Airstream given its own display, the new Prius presented as an AWD road tripping marvel — that we believe it’s a market that will only become more important for automotive 2019 and beyond.
Driving the “give-back”
Considering the event took place in California within weeks of two of the worst brush fires in the state’s history, a proliferation of “we are here to support you” signs sprinkled throughout AutomobilityLA was not surprising. What was interesting, however, was how front and center many of the automakers made their commitment to overall charitable giving.
From the large Toyota Para-Olympics presence with its supporting vehicle to Subaru making your first experience with its exhibit their ASPCA and community involvement — which heavily plays on Subaru’s “LOVE” campaign — the desire to proclaim the stance of doing good was consistently driven home wherever you looked. While we can’t say for sure such overt motor vehicle-based philanthropy will continue into the automotive 2019 space, we believe it is a trend that will build moving forward.
Auto & Tech: Reaching Across the Innovation Aisle
From day one of the conference, it became apparent that reaching across the innovation aisle is key to surviving automotive 2019. There’s still that level of mistrust for a variety of digital and technological advancements being pushed for vehicles. The general public seems to like how it all sounds, but actually owning/driving behind/being a passenger in a driverless vehicle? Not so much. How do you get people behind it when they still can’t equate someone like a Ford or Kia with lasers and artificial intelligence?
Partnerships are the basis of what’s to come as we move toward seeing actual, living Level 5 — fully self-driving, no human operator or even controls required — autonomous cars out there. Not testers, but ones that are driven by someone other than a Waymo or Uber employee. Tech companies still need help getting into the vehicle industry, and automobile professionals need help remaining relevant in the changing motor vehicle landscape. Automotive 2019 will show more of these matchups moving forward.
One classic goes while others thrive
In 2018 Volkswagen announced it would no longer manufacture its iconic Beetle by July of 2019. While that memorable car may be going, VW is bringing the wildly popular Bus into the 21st century and other automakers continue to embrace their past by offering upgraded versions of retro models for the automotive 2019 landscape — a 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt, anyone?
The desire to return to and remain in the past with design and style just seems to be growing. With Porsche, that also means allowing its serious drivers to maintain control of their car — the German automaker will not pursue Level 5 autonomy. Sure, they’ll have some form of driver assist available, but they will never have a fully-autonomous 911. However, while Porsche has taken this stance it’s not to say like-style automakers are. That’s something we’re watching closely as automotive 2019 moves forward — that intersection between nostalgia and innovation.
Regardless, zero emissions and sedans still exist
Contrary to what one of the world’s largest automakers announced days before the conference, exhibitors proved sedans and zero-emission models — with a proud add that many would still be made in America — were NOT a thing of the past. Seems the rest of the auto industry took the pre-show announcement as a call to action. Sure, there were tons of SUVs and a bunch of unique cars that looked nothing like the sedans of yesteryear, but plenty of 4-door and/or eco-friendly models were on display as well. For example, the unveiling of the Rivian all-electric duo of the R1T — a truck that holds 5 passengers — and the R1S — an SUV that ferries 7 and goes from 0 to 60 in 03 seconds was met with open mouth awe.
So, are sedans and green vehicles dead? Um, no. If anything, suppliers are reviving and innovating them to the point that everyday humans like you and I will be able to afford and want to buy them sooner rather than later.
Going beyond “self-driving”
User Experience, you win the “Most Likely to Succeed” of the world of automotive 2019. It’s all about turning your drive into something that goes beyond autonomy and all the way into enjoyment. How can you remind people of what it’s like to engage with their vehicle? Love the experience of, if not driving it then being in it? And how can you use your car for more than transportation?
Volvo blew us away by having no vehicles for preview at their exhibition. They actually had a sign that read, “Don’t Buy Our Cars” and walked attendees through the experiences you would gain through its partnerships and innovation. From Amazon deliveries made to your trunk to Luminar visibility to VR inside your car, Volvo — and others — was all about “you” — the driver, rider, the pedestrian walking or cyclist cycling beside the car and it’s obvious this engagement will only grow.
Innovation and individuality are alive and well
Finally, the cool, the custom, the “think outside the box” were all on display. Cars have always been great canvases for personalization and it’s grown with technology. Extraordinarily beautiful vehicles that seemed impossible were touted — the Infinity Prototype 10 sort of freaked us out, but in a good way — as were all the options for turning your automobile of choice literally into the stuff of dreams.
Concept cars will always rear their headlights but what we’re loving is this immersive mentality of personalizing your piece of the road in a way that truly reflects you. And it goes far beyond just how your car looks and into how you choose to engage with that vehicle.
You can change your automobile as often as you change your clothes through service providers of car sharing, high-end vehicle subscriptions, and ride-hailing as well as unique ways to buy cars through smartphone apps. That innovation-driven individuality is, once again, appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. Automotive 2019 is poised for an opportunity like these to be more available and reinventing an industry that’s closing in on a century and a half old.
Goodbye, 2018. Hello, Automotive 2019
Car ownership isn’t going away. Or, better yet, automobiles transporting people around on a personal level isn’t. As much as it seems like unique alternatives to what was once considered a rite of passage are taking over the automotive world, even they confirm that people still love motoring around. If AutomobilityLA and the last year have taught us anything, it’s that the motor vehicle isn’t disappearing. It’s growing up and leaving home to make its own way in the world.
And that, to us, is what automotive 2019 holds in our opinion — a lot of roads previously traveled but in more innovative ways. Sort of like a kid following in their parents’ footsteps but with their own POV. And isn’t that what the industry has always done? Take the old and make it not just new but beyond belief?
We think so and we look forward to more.