Unsurprisingly 2020 was a tough year for the car industry. There was the twin impact of a crippling global pandemic forcing factories and dealerships to close along with, in Britain’s case, disruption to production caused by Brexit. Prior to that, demand for new cars had already been hit by global economic slowdown.
Last year sales plunged 22 percent globally and even a 10 percent predicted rise for 2021 is not guaranteed. Something has to give. Here’s how motoring will change forever in what is set to be an epochal year for the auto world.
1. Takeovers and bankruptcies
While we’ve been in lockdown, the world’s fourth largest automaker was formed: Stellantis. A deal finalised in January, means the former groups PSA (which included Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall) and FCA (Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Ram and Maserati) are now all one company.
Mergers are better than bankruptcies, though it’s by no means certain we won’t see some car manufacturers close or even that the marques mentioned above are safe, but economies of scales and R&D sharing do help. Don’t be surprised to hear of more takeovers this year. They can dilute the distinctiveness of a brand, however. Cutting costs (expect to see a lot of that) often means different brands being forced to use one platform and sharing power units.
Talking of which…
2. New Vauxhall Astra / Peugeot 308
The Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa took the top two spots in 2020 UK sales respectively. The Volkswagen Golf came third and the Ford Focus was fourth. The Vauxhall Astra was not even in the top 10.
That should change with an all-new Astra to be revealed late this year. And like the new Corsa, which has done well enough to give the Fiesta a fright, it’ll be a shared platform with a Peugeot, in this case the 308, also arriving around that time. The Astra will be targeted keenly at the Focus and an electric-only version is likely to be offered.
3. Citroen Ami
Citroen will be trialling its new Ami in the UK, a tiny two-seater that is classed as a quadricycle. You don’t need a licence to drive it. It’s shorter and narrower than a Smart car and weighs 500kg.
The 6kW motor manages up to 30mph and it has a range of 47miles. It could be bought outright for under £5,000 (if UK sales go ahead) or rented by the mile if car sharing schemes pick up again post-pandemic. It’s not only adorable and simplistic, but indicative of how personal transport will look in future.
4. EV Revolution
The electric vehicle revolution is really set to amp up as we charge towards the new 2030 deadline for all new cars to be sold in Britain being full EV or hybrid only. There will be a raft of new entrants, including the Audi RS E-tron GT previewed by Tony Stark in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (one of several new EVs from the brand). Based on the Porsche Taycan the four-door coupe will boast 637bhp and a 250mile.
BMW is ramping up its electric car offering with the flagship iX SUV with 500bhp and a range of 373 miles, to be joined by the i4 based on the forthcoming 4 Series Grand Coupe.
The baby Fiat 500 goes all electric with a 200mile range and so does the Ford Mustang as an SUV dubbed Mach-E. Tesla continues to thrive and will relaunch the Roadster (an example of which was famously sent into space). The new version will be capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in just two seconds.
Volkswagen is set to launch its first global electric car, the ID 4 compact SUV based on its modular MEB platform, which it has made available to other companies on an open source model. That creates opportunities for smaller bespoke start-up car manufactures fast tracking EVs to market.
5. Online Car Sales
The concept of online car sales is over 20 years old, however it took a series of lockdowns for consumers to finally embrace the idea of buying cars sight-unseen on the internet.
As carmakers cut costs and reduce profit margins there will be much less room for haggling, so as negotiating a deal becomes a thing of the past, clicking a fixed online price will grow in appeal. New start-ups and established car dealers have ramped up online sales to such an extent that many predict a significant reduction of physical car dealerships, especially with the advent of EVs that need much less aftersales servicing and maintenance.
Fasten your seatbelts, 2021 will be a quite a ride!