It's make or break time in the auto industry.
The auto industry is cyclical, and we're currently in the middle of a large state of change. The pandemic and its long-term repercussions mean everyone is trying to work out what the market will want for the short, medium, and long term. Some have been lagging and are behind the curve on the growth of the crossover and SUV market. Some have been struggling to keep their grip on existing markets and need their new vehicles to help grow their brands. Simultaneously, automakers are recognizing the importance of electric vehicles and are concerned with the new brands that are coming to the market. At this tricky time where the future is all but certain, these are the cars that could make or break automakers as we start to look towards 2021.
Despite the high price tags, Aston Martin has been struggling. While other automakers have recognized the importance of producing an SUV or crossover to help the bottom line, Aston Martin is incredibly late to the party. The DBX will be the British marque's first-ever utility vehicle, and there's a lot of pressure on it to be a success. Aston Martin's previous CEO, Andy Palmer, believes the DBX could sell 5,000 units annually, which would be enough to almost double existing yearly sales numbers and put Aston on the road to success. With the recent success of the Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus, and even Bentley Bentayga, the signs are promising that the DBX will be good for the brand. If it isn't, it will be wasted R&D that could ultimately see the British marque crumble.
One of Acura's selling points through the 1990s and 2000s has been its enthusiast biased edge. Lately, that's just not been there, though. Acura has been making good cars and crossovers, but that brand identity has been eroded. Now, Acura is leaning back into building driver's cars, and spent five years developing the new Acura TLX. We recently had our first drive and experienced the stiffer chassis, new suspension system, and over improved dynamics. We walked away impressed and looking forward to a full test drive to make sure the TLX is everything it needs to be for Acura to reclaim its enthusiast status.
As one of the automakers chasing the electric vehicle market, Ford has made an incredibly bold move by using the Mustang name for its first bespoke electric entry. Not only is the legendary Mustang name being applied to an EV, but its a crossover as well. The outcry was loud from car enthusiasts, but Ford seems to plan on spinning Mustang into a sub-brand. If that's to happen, the Mustang Mach-E must be a success. It'll infuriate the die-hard Mustang fans, but using the name as a halo for its performance-based vehicles would help Ford evolve and grow now it's out of the US passenger car market.
It's been no secret that Nissan has been struggling. A former CEO who is now an international fugitive and an aging lineup hasn't helped the Japanese company lately. However, Nissan has a plan, and it involves bringing a bunch of new cars to market. That's already started positively with the new Sentra. Still, the crossover market is one Nissan needs to compete hard with contemporary companies like Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia, who have all been raising their games. The all-new Rogue is lining up as technological advancement, a step up in quality, and a value proposition that should see Nissan as a refreshed force in the market.
Genesis has been doing fantastic work with its sedans. The Genesis G70 is a genuine BMW 3 Series competitor at a better price, and the G90 is a fantastic luxury sedan more people should buy. However, Genesis hasn't had an SUV yet, and that's a must-have for an automaker in the premium market. Genesis has yet to gain the recognition it deserves in the mass market, and the GV80 is shaping up to snag customers away from the German and Japanese rivals. A fully loaded Genesis costs less than a BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, so it's Champagne for good wine money. If enough people snap up the GV80, it will put Genesis on course to become a nameplate right up there with Lexus.
Nissan's Z cars may be iconic, but they've had a long and rocky history as enthusiasts cars. The 350Z and 370Z were a return to form, but the 370Z is now an old car. As part of its strategy to become a more potent force in the auto industry, Nissan needs a halo sports car that satisfies driving enthusiasts and competes with the likes of the Toyota GR Supra. It's shaping up well with nods to the past in styling and a powerful twin-turbo V6 engine. If Nissan prices the 400Z right, and gambling on a reasonable take rate on a manual transmission, the 400Z is shaping up to meet expectations.
Mazda isn't in trouble, but the subcompact crossover market is an important segment Mazda has lagged in, particularly in the US. The CX-3's biggest problem is rear-seat space as, well, there isn't any. The CX-30 cures that problem but also brings an even better interior and more tech. Another problem Mazda has had is its naturally aspirated Skyactiv engines impress on everything but power. A new 2.5 Turbo version is coming with 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque over the current naturally aspirated 186 hp and 186 lb-ft. It shows exactly how important the US market and the CX-30 is to Mazda in the coming years.
The Volkswagen Group is the biggest automaker in the world. However, the Volkswagen brand needs to get its hooks deeper into the US market. The Taos is a new crossover intended to slot in below the Tiguan and design specifically for North America. Little is known right now, but we assume it will share the same MQB architecture as the Volkswagen Tiguan, but only seat five people. The full reveal is expected on October 13, and so far, all we've seen is some shadowy or distant images.
Like it's corporate cousin Nissan, Infiniti needs to push new and competitive models into the market. The QX60 so far has been a decent SUV, but it's long in the tooth and never captured the premium market's full attention. The Infiniti QX60 Monograph is a concept that Infiniti is offering as a preview of the next generation. If Infiniti can get it into production looking the same, it will catch a lot of eyes. If the marque can then catch a decent chunk of the premium crossover market with a new QX60, it will be the first step into recovery for an ailing brand.
Recently, Ford dropped all of its passenger cars from its roster in the US and put all of its chips on trucks, SUVs, and the Mustang. With upcoming electric trucks being released by new brands such as Tesla and Rivian, Ford has to protect its F-Series pickup sales against them. Ford claims its electric F-150 will come with dual electric motors, delivering more horsepower and torque than any F-150 otherwise available and has put it through tens of thousands of hours of torture testing to make sure it deserves to go on sale. If electric trucks prove to be a big deal, Ford will need its F-150 model to be head and shoulders above the rest.
Electric cars may be the future, but that doesn't mean only battery-electric cars will be the future. Several automakers are heavily invested in hydrogen fuel cell system cars, including Toyota. And Toyota is betting big. Along with the new sleek-looking Mirai release, Toyota is deploying a fleet of heavy trucks at ports in the Los Angeles area. A large amount of time and money has been poured into hydrogen fuel cell technology, and the Mirai sales will be an indicator of interest to Toyota for its use for passenger vehicles. The Mirai won't fly out of dealers lots, but those that remember their history will know the Prius didn't either. Toyota just needs to get enough on the road to get the ball rolling.