THE STORIES ON DECK FOR 2020.
DateMONDAY, JANUARY 6, 2020 AT 10:50AM
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. As the new year gets rolling, it’s readily apparent that the Sturm und Drang going on in the auto industry will continue unabated. It’s unavoidable, simply because the massive transition to battery electric vehicles is going to be rocky, jarring and relentlessly unpredictable.
And this just in: In case you’re wondering, 2020 will not be the year of the electric vehicle as some experts have suggested. No, it will be another gradual step in the transition for an industry reeling, reacting and planning for models that are slated for ’22, ’23 and ’24. Make no mistake, this will be such a dramatic transformation that by 2030, BEVs will dominate the product plans – and production – for all of the major manufacturers.
Lingering questions will remain, of course. The pace of battery development will continue to accelerate, bringing down costs. And this will be a significant part of making the BEV transformation possible. I believe, however, that the charging infrastructure will lag the arrival of these BEVs, and this will continue to be an issue. The dominant charging regimen will continue to take place at private residences, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. The day you start seeing charging “islands” at gas stations across the country is the day the infrastructure transition will start to make believable traction.
But if 2020 is going to be another ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) dominated year, what are some of the stories that I expect will dominate the news cycle?
Yeah, We Got Nothin’. That Nissan’s downward spiral is accelerating is no big secret, but the depth and breadth of the implosion could have far reaching – and permanent – consequences. Nissan’s honcho executives du jour are making all kinds of promises about “a new beginning” for the brand, with new breakthrough designs and an emphasis on product, product and more product. But who’s kidding whom? Nissan dealers in the U.S. are extremely nervous if not flat-out pissed off about the constant churn of executives and the dismal sales numbers. Some are even wondering if Nissan can remain a viable player in the market in the future. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Nissan could be forced to drastically curtail its operations here if some sort of miracle doesn’t materialize. Nissan execs are at the “let’s throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks” stage, which is a giant bowl of Not Good and inevitably leads to nowhere. The reality is that “Hail Mary” passes have never accounted for much in this business, and Nissan is teetering on the bring of disaster.
We Only Kinda Sorta Said That It Would Be Ready in December of 2020. Ford operatives are shouting from the rooftops that the Mustang Mach-E BEV is sold out through advanced orders that are piling up at a feverish rate. And that’s all well and good, but promises that Mach-E deliveries will actually start next December are unmitigated bull****. Ford has demonstrated repeatedly and convincingly that they are incapable of launching a vehicle without serious issues, and having to fix those vehicles after the fact has become standard operating procedure for the Dearborn-based automaker. Add to that dismal track record the complexities of launching an all-new battery electric architecture and you have a recipe for disaster. Industry insiders already have correctly surmised that the Mach-E carries the stench of a product that has been rushed into being, and there’s nothing about it that indicates otherwise to me. Yes, Ford might squeeze one out next December 31st to say that it achieved its goals by the date promised, but don’t look for it in any meaningful quantities before the spring of 2021.
We Started the Segment, And We Aren’t Ceding It to Anyone. The new Cadillac Escalade is going to reestablish Cadillac at the top of the luxury SUV segment. After cooling their heels while listening to all of the accolades piling up for the new Lincolns – especially the Navigator – the True Believers at Cadillac went about their business designing and developing the best Escalade imaginable. The new Escalade starts with a sophisticated independent rear suspension, which will transform the dynamic performance for Cadillac’s flagship. That’s huge news unto itself, but look for the new Escalade to set the table for GM Design’s dramatic push into elevating the look, feel and quality of its interiors. While this transition to BEVs continues to play out, make no mistake, the new Escalade will be a hugely important – and profitable – vehicle for GM.