The 2010s hosted several paradigm shifts for the automotive industry. Sedans gave way to crossovers, hybrids made a surprising comeback, and EVs captured everybody’s attention. But what about next decade? I’ve got some thoughts.
1. Tesla will double its sales in America and maintain their EV range supremacy
Tesla sold about 180,000 vehicles in 2018. My prediction is that they’ll basically pull a Subaru. The Japanese automaker doubled its sales in America between 2008 and 2018. Tesla can do the same between now and 2030. Like Subaru, they have a strong brand identity and a loyal following. Their future products will broaden their appeal even further.
What vehicles will propel Tesla to new heights? Not the Cybertruck. I think it will remain a niche product and sell at a rate of 50k per year. Economies of scale might allow Musk to make the 3 less expensive. Otherwise, it will be a vehicle more explicitly geared toward mainstream audiences, perhaps with a starting price just under $30,000, a range of 350 miles with all-wheel drive, and a 5.5 second 0-60 time. It will be a credible challenger to the Honda Accord Sport 2.0T and boast similar amenities. Tesla Model M, for mid-size sedan? Restrictive state laws limiting Tesla’s ability to sell and service vehicles might be the major wrench in that expansion though.
2. Rise of the sub-brand
Ford publicly stated their intentions to create several sub-brands this decade. The Mustang Mach-E and upcoming Focus-based mini Bronco are just two examples of what will probably become a trend among automakers. GM will follow in Ford’s footsteps by naming a future performance SUV after the Camaro or Corvette. A Corvette-based SUV designed to take on the Lamborghini Urus, but for less than half the price? It could happen.
3. The “rise” of true Tesla competitors
The 2020s will see several automakers reach parity with Tesla in certain areas. Some models, like the Mach-E, will compete based on range, price, and desirability. But they won’t be able to match Tesla’s scale until 2025 at the earliest, at least in America. Battery supply constraints and the need for electric vehicles in Europe and China will see limited production runs of the early Tesla competitors. Automakers will eventually overcome these challenges, but not for a while.
4. The Ioniq sets a standard
Expect more vehicles to operate like the Hyundai Ioniq. The Ioniq sits on a dedicated platform and has three variants: a regular hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a fully electric model. Automakers might forgo a separate nameplate and simply incorporate this strategy into well known models. This is already happening with vehicles like the Ford Escape and Toyota Rav4, both of which will soon offer a regular gasoline model, a hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid. By 2030 at least five of the top fifteen best selling cars in America will be available in similar configurations, plus at least one fully electric variant.
5. Sedans decline, pickups thrive
Sedans will continue to lose ground to crossovers. Long-running nameplates like the Volkswagen Passat, Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Elantra, and Kia Optima will see one or two more generations before being cancelled. Some might be reborn as pure EVs. By 2030, the compact, mid-size, and full-size segments will mirror what the minivan segment looks like in 2020: Several popular models (Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, etc.) and one model that is just as good but is a slow seller that exists for reasons only the manufacturer understands (Kia Sedona).
Pickups will continue their overall dominance. There will be enough demand to go around for every upcoming hybrid and electric pickup. Mid-size pickups like the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger will also do just fine. Compact pickups like the Hyundai Santa Cruz and whatever Ford calls their Focus-based pickup will fit the needs of a lot of buyers, and by the end of the decade we’ll see at least four of them. By 2030 the compact pickup segment will grow to about 250,000 vehicles sold per year.
Okay, my crystal ball just conked out. What did yours say?