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What Can Car Buyers Expect in 2018? More Technology and a Family Focus

volkswagen atlas

Looking for a new car in 2018? There's never been a better year for the American buyer.

Many models rolling onto showroom floors this year were designed specifically for the American market — even those from foreign automakers.

Take the all-new Volkswagen Atlas. It's made in the United States for the American market. It's large size and moderate price is expected to be a hit among minivan buyers.

“This is the biggest and boldest Volkswagen we have ever built in the United States, delivering the distinctive design and craftsmanship we’re known for, now with room for seven,” says Hinrich Woebcken, the head of Volkswagen's North America Region. “The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.”

Honda also took a cue from American consumers with its newly redesigned Honda Odyssey. The minivan has reconfigured seating for greater accessibilty for growing families, plus better tech features to appeal to Millennial buyers.

Technology was the buzzword for many auto manufacturers as they rolled out their 2018 models.

Cameras and sensors are now all working to help the driver stay aware of the surroundings and help the vehicle avoid collisions. Connectivity is also a priority, both between the vehicle and your smart devices, but also helping the passengers connect with the world.

“There is new technology being deployed across a wider range of cars,” says  IHS Automotive Senior Analyst Stephanie Brinley. “There are cars that can communicate with the home, and the car is increasingly a part of the Internet of Things. The pace of that integration is likely to increase.”

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On-board wi-fi and app-based vehicle monitoring is become more and more common.

And while the sensors and cameras are all designed to help keep everyone safer, Brinley says not to hold your breath waiting for the much-talked-about self-driving car.

She says there are systems which will assist in steering and/or braking, and there is technology from luxury makers with lead-follow capability, which can enable the car to largely take over steering, acceleration and braking to the degree that they can manage stop-and-go traffic.

“However, these are not autonomous or self-driving. These are systems that can make certain driving conditions less tedious, but the intent is not for the driver to give up control or attention to driving,” Brinley says.

She said self-driving cars will not be on market for private owners for several more years.

Technology aside, many automakers have cast their attention toward crossover SUV models, as American consumers move away from the car market and into larger options.

But that doesn’t mean fuel-efficiency is falling by the wayside, as many manufacturers are unveiling new plug-in electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles to their fleets.

We reached out to major auto manufacturers, and here is what they say are priorities for 2018: 

Fiat Chrysler

alfa romeo stelvioFiat Chrysler is working on launching, reviving and refreshing several vehicles in its fleet.

“We are currently at the media launch for the all-new Jeep Compass, and after that this year, will be launching all-new vehicles, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Dodge Demon and Durango SRT, the Jeep Trackhawk, and finally the Jeep Wrangler,” says Rick Deneau, spokesman for Fiat Chrysler Automotive.

The company describes the Jeep Compass as an all-new compact SUV. It will be produced with 17 fuel-efficient powertrain options.

On the Alfa Romeo side of the house, they are launching the Stelvio.

The company describes the Stelvio as a premium mid-sized SUV “built for the S-Curves.” It delivers 505 horsepower and accelerates from 0-60 in just 3.9 seconds and is described as the perfect mix of high-performance, capability and design.

The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is a re-imagination of a 1970s favorite. The SRT Demon is made to dominate in “Drag Mode.”

The SRT Demon’s uses an all-new suspension to maximize weight transfer, traction and control.

The company says the SRT Demon is the first-ever factory production car with mechanical/electronic drag-race-specific suspension tuning.

Later this year, Fiat Chrysler will also release the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – a performance SUV that is expected to sport a 6.2-liter Hellcat V8 engine.  

Ford

volkswagen atlasIn the coming year, Ford has its eye on five models: the F-150, the Mustang, the EcoSport, the Expedition and the all-new Ford GT, says Michael Levine, a Ford spokesman.

For the 2018 F-150, Ford is looking to continue its emphasis on the high-strength, military-grade, aluminum-alloy-body initially unveiled three years ago.

The new F-150 arrives with new front and rear styling, advanced technologies — including available pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection — and improved engines.

Levine says the Mustang will host improvements including new technology and design changes, giving owners ways to customize Mustang to their preferences. It will also be designed for better performance from more powerful engines and new MagneRide suspension technology.

The EcoSport is Ford’s smallest SUV. Levine says it is “Fun, capable and connected.”

Tech features — including SYNC 3 with a high-resolution 8-inch floating touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — are all designed to be integrated with your smartphone and keep you connected.

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The Expedition is getting a re-launch. Thanks to the use of advanced materials, the all-new Expedition saves up to 300 pounds, and Levine says the team reinvested that weight savings “everywhere it counts to give customers more technology and convenience features than ever before.”

With more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, Expedition is designed to help make the journey as enjoyable as the destination, he says.

The all-new Ford GT will deliver the highest output of any EcoBoost production engine. The GT couples its power with aerodynamic efficiency and advanced active dynamics to achieve a maximum speed of 216 mph — making it the fastest Ford production vehicle on the track ever. 

General Motors

chevrolet carThe GM products that are really catching fire with consumers are crossovers and pickup trucks, says James Cain, General Motors spokesman. 

“We see more and more customers moving out of cars and into smaller and compact crossovers like the Chevrolet Trax and Equinox because they like the ride height, the available all-wheel drive, and all the room for people and cargo.”

Improving performance and fuel economy also has nudged customers toward the larger models.

“The strides we have made in using lightweight materials combined with high-efficiency turbocharged are behind the gains,” Cain says.

In the pickup segment, GM’s full-size models like the Chevrolet Silverado, are selling strongly thanks in part to low fuel prices and a growing economy. 

“But the mid-size pickup segment has been on fire for us,” Cain says. 

He said that Chevrolet left the segment a few years ago, but has we returned with models helping make inroads in import-heavy markets like Los Angeles.

As for the specific models, the Equinox is a mid-sized SUV that got a redesign, with new styling and several fresh features.

The mid-sized Traverse also got a redesign, with a focus on technologies to help keep passengers comfortable and connected.

The acclaimed Bolt is a pure plug-in electric vehicle that delivers 238 miles on a single charge. Unlike its plug-in cousin, the Volt, the Bolt doesn’t even have a gasoline engine. But Chevy assures buyers that the 238-mile range is plenty for daily driving needs — with room to spare. It also comes with a $7,500 federal tax credit.

New for the Silverado HD pickup is the optional redesigned Duramax 6.6L V-8 turbo-diesel. This offers more horsepower and torque than ever at 445 horsepower.

The full-size GMC Sierra HD pickup is being introduced with the All Terrain X package, which makes it what the company describes as the most off-road-capable model in the Sierra HD lineup.

The GMC Terrain is the successor to the brand’s popular compact SUV, and accounts for 25 percent of GMC’s sales.

The Cadillac XT5 is an upgraded and redesigned luxury crossover and is what the company calls the cornerstone of a new series of crossovers in the brand’s ongoing expansion.  

Honda

honda clarityIn a press conference earlier this year, Takahiro Hachigo, president and chief executive officer of Honda says the company is focusing on two key passions: to create products that help people in their daily lives and to provide the joy and freedom of mobility.

“You can see this direction in our new products like the Civic and CR-V,” he says.  

All of Honda's global models will follow this approach.

Hachigo also says Honda has set a challenging goal to make two-thirds of its global sales from electrified vehicles by around 2030.

Leading the way is this year’s newly released plug-in electric, the Clarity.

Honda will also begin applying its hybrid system to its lineup of light trucks.

Hachigo adds that even though gas prices have reduced demand for hybrid vehicles in the U.S., in the long term, electrified vehicles are key to the future of carbon-free mobility.

At the same event, John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. announced the release of the fifth generation of the best-selling Odyssey minivan.

In addition, according to Carl Pulley, a Honda spokesman, Honda has launched, or will soon launch, virtually its entire vehicle lineup, he said.

The revamps include the Fit, HR-V, Civic Sedan, Civic Coupe, Pilot, Ridgeline, Accord Hybrid, Civic Hatchback, Civic Si, Civic Type R, CR-V, Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Battery Electric, Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, and the above mentioned Odyssey.  

Toyota

toyota rav4At Toyota, Greg Thome, company spokesman says they are pretty excited about light trucks and are building crossovers, SUVs and pickups as fast as they can to try to meet demand.  

That has especially been true of the Highlander.

“We haven’t been able to build them fast enough,” Thome says.

The new SE sport grade has helped carry its strong sales momentum forward.

Also strong has been the Rav 4, which is getting a new premium grade called platinum that offers more luxury features like leather seats and a power lift gate triggered by foot that utilizes radar rather than optical sensors, which can be prone to malfunction.

Rav 4 will also continue into its second year as a hybrid, which was wildly successful when it was debuted. Thome says part of the hybrid model’s success is that is crossovers themselves have been “super popular.” But it also helps that the Rav 4 is the only compact crossover with hybrid option right now.

“It’s great for us,” Thome says.

Plus, the hybrid model has only a modest price difference over it’s gas model, clocking in at only $300 to $400 more.

Toyota is also excited about the C-HR subcompact crossover. When it was first debuted, it was as a Scion. But since the Scion brand has been discontinued, it moved into the Toyota fleet.

Toyota is also launching a redesigned Camry, which Thome describes as being the “best ever.”

The Camry is built on a new architecture which is expected to deliver much better handling and performance.  

Volkswagen

volkswagen tiguanThis is promising to be a big year for Volkswagen in many ways, says Mark Gillies, Volkswagen spokesman. The company has several new products coming to market.

What is most of note about Volkswagen’s offerings is not necessarily their cars.

“We were always regarded as a car company rather than a crossover or SUV company,” Gillies says. But this year the company is launching its first mainstream midsize crossover — the Atlas. The Tiguan is also getting a full makeover.

That doesn’t mean Volkswagen has neglected the car market, though.

Its new e-Golf got refreshed, and depending on the model options, can get between 83 and 125 miles on a single gallon of gas.

Volkswagen is introducing several new technologies, particularly in its digital cockpit, such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency breaking and pedestrian sensors.

“One of the things we’ve been keen on is democratizing driver assistance and safety features,” Gillies says. “In the past, adaptive cruise control, parking assistance, lane countersteer — those were features that were only in luxury cars. Now they are in our vehicles.”

With the new SUV options, VW is now playing in four of the five volume segments.

The thing that Gillies says will really surprise customers is how spacious the Tiguan and Atlas models will feel.

“Traditionally we were a small car company, and so when we package vehicles, we make them very space-efficient,” Gillies says.