Prediction: What the Car World Will Look Like in 15 Years (US and Europe)
What body styles, fuels, and brands will generally remain in 2035...maybe
Today's automotive industry is becoming more and more interesting. 700-horsepower SUVs with sub-four-second 0-60 times, four-door vehicles badged as coupes, technological wonders designed for 300-MPH speeds, pickups everywhere, electrification of just about any kind of automobile, eroding sedan and wagon market share, et cetera. With automakers walking away from cars and telling consumers that hatchbacks and wagons with body cladding are SUVs, combined with demand for lower emissions, quicker acceleration, and greater fuel efficiency, the future is likely to be even stranger than it is today. Here are my predictions:
Sedans Will Disappear, SUVs Will Flourish
It confuses me as to why sedans exist when wagons have similar pricing and spec while always having at least double the cargo space and more attractive styling than their four-door counterparts. I consider all-wheel-drive wagons to be a genuinely good idea because of their increased grip, all-weather capability, and (on some, but certainly not all) some off-road capability for any pothole-ridden gravel roads one may encounter when reaching a certain location.
The original point of the SUV back in the fifties was a vehicle that could go anywhere and do anything. With the advent of paved roads, cars could become lower to the ground for better handling, with SUVs having ponderous handling, poor fuel economy, and a lack of refinement; these faults prevented them from replacing wagons as the family transport of choice, at least for the first roughly 35 years. People that did buy SUVs bought them for their ability to capably cross all kinds of terrain while carrying lots of people and/or luggage at the same time. However, with the introduction of unibody construction in the 1984 Jeep Cherokee, SUVs would gradually become better-handling and more refined than ever before without sacrificing the capabilities that they were designed for in the first place.
Now that SUVs are so similar to cars in categories such as efficiency while simultaneously offering increased practicality, it makes sense as to why the general public purchases them in droves instead of sedans and wagons. The jacked-up, ruggedized compact hatchbacks marketed as SUVs that arguably aren't what their creators call them are generally more spacious than the hatchbacks they're replacing, so it makes sense as to why they steal market share from their non-SUV siblings. Moreover, midsize and large SUVs are vastly more wieldy than they used to be and are no less capable than before.
However, wagons, especially those equipped with AWD, are probably not going anywhere...
...but minivans and MPVs will go extinct.
The MPV was a spectacular idea. Thanks in part to their clever packaging, the MPV pioneers were able to shuttle around the same amount of people and luggage as the SUVs at the time while offering more refinement and efficiency with lower emissions. Their more manageable size meant that they were easier to drive and park, and the increased height over wagons meant that the same amount of stuff could fit inside despite the shorter length.
However, it is clear as to why SUVs are taking market share from MPVs. Midsize and large SUVs provide the aforementioned same amount of space, but don't represent any efficiency loss. Most MPVs also lack all-wheel-drive, making them less suited for inclement weather, and many SUVs (such as the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7) are much better to drive.
In Europe, the large MPV segment is almost gone. Now that the SsangYong Rodius, Volkswagen Sharan, and SEAT Alhambra have been discontinued, only the Ford S-Max, Ford Galaxy, and Renault Espace remain; all three have no successors planned. The only small MPV left is the aging Fiat 500L, and the midsized MPV segment was half as popular in the first half of 2020 than it was in the first half of 2019. Finally, in the US, 242,149 minivans were sold in the first half of 2015, whilst just 125,955 minivans were sold in the first half of 2020.
Trucks Will Keep Trucking
Like SUVs, trucks were primarily utilitarian in design and execution when they originated, but today can be had in luxurious form for $100,000. Engineers have succeeded in making huge vehicles drive smaller, making them more approachable to people who otherwise would not have opted for one without sacrificing towing capacities in excess of 30,000 pounds. Even midsized trucks, such as the Chevrolet Colorado, can tow a healthy 7,000, which is probably more than most owners will ever need. Crew Cab pickups are likely to increase in popularity as the vehicle of choice for many families with two or three children due to the capability to carry whatever they have to, transport the kids, and offer an easy, if not always sporty, driving experience.
Supercars are Not Going Anywhere
Though many trucks and SUVs today combine daily drivability, practicality, and sportiness into a single package, because of their sheer heft, body roll, and higher centers of gravity, they will never match or replace the thrill of throwing a sports car through some quick bends. Sports car market share has gradually eroded with the incursion of sporty SUVs, with only a few thousand of each model being sold each year. Unless potential customers realize the superior experience of driving a roadster over driving a sporty SUV, the nonluxury sports car segment sadly will someday disappear. When one can purchase a practical vehicle for the price of an impractical one with similar performance, sub-$40,000 sports cars simply don't make sense to many consumers.
However, if one has the money to own both a daily car and a weekend car, then luxury sports cars, supercars, grand tourers, and (exclusively for the wealthiest of people) hypercars make more sense to purchase and no SUV can match the cool and thrill of any of them.
I have absolutely no idea if or when these will enter production nor if they'll be successful, so I have no predictions regarding them.
Hydrogen Will Be the Fuel of the Future
Petrol, diesel, and oil will all eventually run out, meaning that cars will be rendered inoperable, and electric vehicles receive their electricity and lithium for their batteries in a highly-polluting process; however, hydrogen will never run out and fuel production does not create any pollution whatsoever. In hydrogen-powered cars (FCEVs), only water vapor leaves the tailpipe, the driving range mirrors that of a conventionally-powered car, and the electric motor that the hydrogen powers brings instant torque and no engine noise. Also, when EV owners lose power at home, then how will they charge their vehicles? On the downside, hydrogen isn't popular enough to get cheaper and fuel cell engineering and production likewise is still expensive, so there's still a fairly long way to go before FCEVs become a regular sight.
FCEVs won't be entirely ubiquitous in fifteen years, but they will replace many electricity- and fossil-fueled cars. Much further into the future, petrol/diesel filling stations will be completely replaced by hydrogen units, with classics being preserved by enthusiasts in museums and private collections, not being driven at all due to the lack of fuel.
Five Car Brands Will Bite the Dust
Stellantis will drop a few brands. With the discontinuation of the Fiat 124 Spider and the electrification of the 500, Abarth is out of models and the only vehicles left in Fiat's range that they can tune are the nine-year-old Panda and the not-sporty Tipo. Chrysler produces a large sedan on an archaic chassis and a minivan, both of which are dying breeds. Fiat's last models left in the US are the 500L (which sold in triple figures last year) and the 500X, which are experiencing falling sales. Because Chrysler and Fiat are no longer corporate names, I suspect that by 2024, Chrysler will be closed and Fiat will be replaced in the US by Peugeot. Finally, Lancia will be discontinued when the Ypsilon ends it's life cycle.
BMW will pull MINI out of the US but will keep it going in Europe, Mitsubishi will leave both the US and Europe unless they release some actually good new products, and Daimler will do the smart thing and kill smart.
The general public will choose either an SUV or a pickup truck for a first and/or second car, with sports cars being the third car of choice. It's too soon to know what will happen with self-driving pods, but sedans, wagons, and minivans will end production. Hydrogen, once more accessible to consumers, will replace electricity- and fossil-fueled vehicles, with classics being preserved by enthusiasts in museums and private collections, not being driven at all due to the lack of fuel. Fiat and MINI will exit the US market with Peugeot to take their place, and Abarth, Chrysler, Lancia, Mitsubishi, and smart will be closed for good.