17 ways the Irish car industry will change in 2017
I wonder what we will be looking back on in the rapidly-changing world of motoring this time next year. How many more technological breakthroughs will we have witnessed? How will global events impact nationally and internationally? It's all before us but here are 17 things I believe will unfold over the next 12 months.
1 The year will be dominated by Brexit, so get used to plenty of stories about imports from the UK and pressure on car prices. I'm certain it will be a topsy-turvy year on that front.
2 Expect a huge level of deals for new cars, especially in the first two or three months. Already there are some strong pushes as automakers vie for crucial market share. As Brexit (there it is again) impacts, there are bound to be more. It will be a buyers' market. Bargain hard (but fair).
3 Used cars will probably get cheaper because of import levels - it looks increasingly likely we will buy even more from the UK in 2017. Could we see 90,000-plus brought in (71,000 in 2016)? Is 100,000 out of the question?
4 But car prices in the UK could rise for a whole variety of reasons (yes, Brexit is the main driver) so maybe it won't be altogether that attractive to import after a while. I'm hedging my bets here. I still feel there will be a massive number of imports.
5 The number of crossovers and SUVs will make up a higher proportion of new cars bought throughout 2017. In a way, that is a no-brainer. It has been the case for several years now that each new selling period heralds another rise in the genre. I do know that the distributors of vehicles here are expecting another increase in 2017.
6 Will we finally get a lift-off in electric cars? Will someone in the Government finally recognise the need for concrete action - as well as financial incentives - to entice people to buy into the whole idea of owning an electric vehicle? Globally, car-makers are pushing on. Who ever thought Jaguar would make an electric SUV (the I-PACE)?
7 Regardless of what happens on that front, most of us will continue to buy diesel cars. There just isn't an alternative for thousands who churn out the big (and small) mileage each year. So it's diesel-do for the foreseeable future.
8 Expect a bit of a rise in the choice of petrol-car options and a corresponding increase in the number of people buying one. Nothing dramatic, but it provides me with another opportunity to point out that it could take up to seven years of fuelling to make up the initial premium price you pay for your diesel car over the petrol one.
9 More people bought a plug-in hybrid in the past year than ever before. Manufacturers are lining up lots more, so it's certain more people will buy one. They give you, typically, 50km solely on electric charge, meaning you could commute without dipping into the tank during the week. Big increase on this front, I predict.
10 'Ordinary' hybrids are now accepted as part of the mainstream - about time - and more of you will buy one in 2017, if growth in 2016 is anything to go by.
11 Road-safety chiefs are deeply concerned about the increase in deaths and injuries that made 2016 one of the bleakest years for some time. Expect to see a renewed clampdown on speed and breathalysing. It is, as the RSA says, all about enforcement. That's what makes people pay attention. The Traffic Corps needs to be strengthened and backed to do the most vital job of all - help save lives.
12 More and more of you will get into a 171-reg/172-reg car on the basis of taking out a Personal Contract Plan (PCP). The growth of PCPs has been phenomenal and all the indications are there is plenty of demand for much, much more. Big shift from car ownership to 'usership'.
13 You can also bet, if I'm around, that you will get reminders about making sure you know what you are getting into. This is not negativity towards PCPs as some in the industry claim and incorrectly believe. Rather, it is intended to let people know about as many of the pluses and pitfalls that can be involved if they are not fully aware of everything to do with PCPs - or any finance deal for that matter.
14 The rate of connectivity will accelerate exponentially. People want to be 'in touch' with everything when they are driving. Especially the passengers. And, believe me, every new car will be connected in some way or another in the next few years. More and more will have even bigger spreads of technology and wider availability of in-car Wi-Fi.
15 Watch out for pressure from some quarters for heavier taxation on diesel fuel/cars and possibly a general increase in road-tax levels. I have a feeling (bad) in my bones about this.
16 There is quite a trend towards cars getting all-wheel-drive. It costs a few thousand more but the luxury marques such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes, for example, are putting their versions into smaller saloons. People like the extra grip and traction. Big growth area in 2017, I predict.
17 Finally, prepare to be really surprised at the shape and design of some of the new cars over the next 12 months. What looks radical now will look positively conservative, especially with electric vehicles. The Geneva Show in March will be fascinating.