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Key automotive introductions expected at AutoMobility LA 2018
Jeep, Lincoln, Honda and Hyundai are adding new vehicles to their respective model lineups at the upcoming AutoMobility LA expo. Other notable reveals are expected to include start-up Rivian's upcoming pick-up truck and SUV models and a second EV from Audi.
Trucks and SUVs
Among the most notable reveals will be the all-new Jeep truck. Derived from the Wrangler, this has been one of the most eagerly-awaited reveals. The vehicle, expected to be called Gladiator, is closely related to the Wrangler and will be a lifestyle truck, prioritizing exceptional off-road capability with competitive towing and payload capacities. The Jeep truck will compete in the mid-size pick-up segment in the US--and the US is expected to far and away be the most important market for this product. The Jeep truck will provide new competition for the lifestyle-oriented versions of traditional mid-size pickups, and an alternative for truck buyers looking simply for something different and yet functional.
In Los Angeles in 2018, Honda will reveal a two-row SUV and revive the name Passport, while Hyundai's lineup will grow to include a three-row SUV called Palisade. The new products fill potential white spaces in the respective OEM lineups. The Passport will sit between the CR-V and the Pilot, while the Hyundai Palisade will be at the top of the brand's SUV range. For Honda, the opportunity to improve overall volume is more attractive than potential risk for cannibalization of either CR-V or Pilot. Passport gives Honda an entry better sized to compete with the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Murano. The Hyundai Palisade will take on the likes of the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas, expected to offer high grades of amenities and technology. The Palisade is expected to be a strong three-row alternative for the US market, though the brand is among the last to arrive; this will make standing out in the crowd all the more difficult.
Lincoln is expected to show its all-new Aviator. Lincoln revealed a concept version of the vehicle at the 2018 New York Auto Show; it shares with the upcoming all-new Ford Explorer, which has not been formally revealed. Aviator is Lincoln's second attempt in this space, having offered an Explorer-based SUV from 2002 to 2005. The Aviator will see Lincoln increase its shift from a passenger-car to an SUV premium brand.
Luxury in LA
As Los Angeles is a trend-setting area and one of the most significant markets for sales of luxury vehicles, the sector is watched closely in LA. However, the luxury being introduced in 2018 will be mostly derivative versions of key models. One exception is the all-new Porsche 911; though not Porsche's highest volume product these days, it is iconic and has traditionally been the purest expression of the brand. Porsche needs to ensure the iconic sports car continues its legacy as well as possibly carefully use the entry to provide a transition to an electric future, though photos of the undisguised vehicle during testing suggest it will be a highly evolutionary effort. Another exception is Audi's reveal of the second of its full battery electric vehicles, the e-tron GT, expected to take a sports car form. BMW will reveal the latest M treatment for the 3-Series, as well as show several vehicles revealed at off-auto show events in recent months, including the X7, 8-Series Convertible, and Vision iNext. Mercedes-Benz is using Los Angeles as a backdrop to reveal a track-ready version of its AMG-GT super car. Volvo is taking an unusual approach and will not feature a car, but push focus onto connectivity, the company's Care by Volvo subscription model, and its vision for autonomous driving (including the Volvo 360c concept). The approach aligns with Volvo's current focus--and also that it's product cadence does not align with a new car to debut at this event.
As technology develops and increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions regulations come into play globally, alternative propulsion and electrification is becoming part of the fabric of the automotive industry, and is now a thread throughout auto shows rather than a trend. At the 2018 Automobility LA show, the most significant announcements in this area include a new truck and SUV from start-up Rivian and an expected Mitsubishi concept, tipped to be a result of collaboration in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Other electrification news from the expo is expected to the Subaru Crosstrek PHEV, an electric version of the all-new Kia Soul, which takes a reveal at LA and will also play up its utility shape with a new, more rugged trim level. The Subaru Crosstrek is this company's first effort into the PHEV space; application of the powertrain solution to its best-selling US model provides an opportunity for reaching more Subaru customers.
Automaker news on passenger cars at the 2018 expo is expected to be overshadowed by SUVs, as has been the case for several recent auto shows. However, Mazda will reveal the all-new Mazda3 at the event. While in the US, Mazda3 sales have struggled against SUVs as the well-received vehicle aged, globally it is the most significant vehicle in the company's lineup. It will usher in an all-new platform and an all-new engine for the company, and as such has a key role in future product development. Toyota's new Corolla, which took an international debut in Guangzhou, is expected to be on display in LA.
Outlook and Implications
The number of significant introductions is modest, but varied. Matching current and projected consumer buying trends, several automakers are increasing their truck or SUV lineups with new offerings. As electrification becomes a part of automotive strategy, in response to regulatory trends globally, several LA reveals feature key moves in this direction as well. As for passenger cars, these will not steal the show, but IHS Markit does expect some key reveals in this category.
In the US, sales of passenger cars have declined and light-truck sales have increased, and automakers continue to alter vehicle lineup offerings in response to an accelerating consumer trend. The new trucks and SUVs are arriving in response to a longer-term trend and are set to contribute to the acceleration of the shift--in 2023, IHS Markit forecasts the US market will see sales of light trucks approach 75%, compared with an expected 69% in 2018 and only 49% in 2000. Excluding the recessionary years, the share of light trucks in the US has been growing since 2000. Since 2015, when light trucks accounted for 57% of US sales, new entries, low fuel prices and increased consumer confidence have accelerated the trend. This is reflected in the makeup of introductions at all auto shows, including this Los Angeles event.
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