As part of our guide to the perfect motoring year, here are our predictions for what to expect from the automotive world in the next twelve months
12 January 2019

We've kicked off January with a list of what to watch out for in 2019 with our comprehensive guide to exactly what new cars are due to hit showrooms over the next twelve months. 

But what about the things we don't know? The following might not be set in stone, but Autocar's writers have predicted what you can expect from the automotive industry in 2019.

James Dyson will spark a revolution 

Inventor James Dyson is promising a revolutionary electric car on sale in 2021, which makes 2019 a critical year as he readies a new British test track and Singapore manufacturing plant for operations. 

The Singapore factory is due to be finished in 2020 and a first sight of at least a sketch of the Dyson EV must be a strong possibility this year, most likely in the last quarter. 

As a new market entrant, Dyson can reveal details of his new car without the risk of adversely affecting sales of an existing model, although the company will be acutely aware of revealing too much to rivals. 

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Dyson has a history of defending its designs and R&D spending in the courts and six years ago accused Bosch – whose automotive division is one of the world’s biggest car parts suppliers – of stealing secrets of patented high-speed brushless motors. 

Since then, Dyson has been locked in a legal battle at the European Court over energy labelling of vacuum cleaners, again putting him at loggerheads with Bosch’s home products division. 

However, the need to prepare car buyers for the surprise of a Dyson-designed electric car may well override concerns over intellectual property and encourage the British inventor to reveal outline details of the new car 12 or 18 months ahead of its launch. Julian Rendell 

Brexit? Who knows… but it won’t be simple

Regardless of your political view, we can all agree that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union hasn’t exactly been smooth or predictable. And events unfolding in Westminster and Brussels mean that, at the time of writing, nobody really knows what will happen. 

Which, for multinational car firms with tight production chains that cross the UK/EU border repeatedly, is a massive dose of wholly unwelcome uncertainty in an already turbulent market. And multinational car firms hate uncertainty. 

So here’s how things stand. At 11pm on 29 March, Britain will absolutely, definitely leave the EU. Probably. 

When/if Britain leaves, relations between the two will be governed by a withdrawal agreement – if the UK parliament approves it in a vote, which may or may not take place mid-January. Should that not happen, a new deal may be agreed, or Britain will leave without one. Or delay Brexit. Or stage a second referendum. 

Crystal clear so far, right? 

If Britain leaves with a withdrawal agreement, things should continue pretty much as they are until 31 December 2020, by which point a full trade deal will or won’t have been agreed. If Britain leaves without a deal, cross-border relations might be covered by World Trade Organization rules or some other yet-to-be-determined system (rock paper scissors, anyone?). And that may or may not cause huge disruption to manufacturing industries – including the car industry – with short-timeline production chains that rely on tariff- and delay-free movement across the border. 

It’s not just industry that could be affected: you might need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU, have to sort different car insurance, or likely need a visa waiver to enter European countries. 

Simple, right? Well, no. Frankly, trying to predict Brexit is an impossible task – which is exactly the problem for those people and firms whose livelihoods could depend on how and when it happens. What we can predict is that, whatever form Brexit takes, it will have a major impact on the British car industry. 

Probably. James Attwood

UK plants will be under threat

Closely linked to Brexit – will 2019 be the year that a major car plant shuts in the UK? There are several possible candidates, but history suggests any closure plan will develop over a couple of years and is likely to be leaked well in advance – given the cataclysmic effect on jobs, the supply chain and Westminster politics. So we wouldn’t expect the doors to be shuttered on any major plant in 2019, but as the detail of the UK’s future trade agreement is negotiated from April (probably…), any increase in the PR volume around a plant closure is noise we really don’t want to hear this year. Julian Rendell

The US/China trade war will influence car production 

The on/off trade war between the US and China and the US and the EU is already influencing global car production. For example, Geely-owned Volvo has announced lower volumes of exports to China of the S60 from a new US plant in Charleston as a response to sales dragged down by higher import duties. As a result, a question hangs over US investment for the XC90, with sales in China under threat. 

Meanwhile, BMW is increasing production in China of the X3, a model that previously was globally sourced from South Carolina. Others – like Ford, which exports the Mustang to China – are remaining cagey about their response to the tariff war. In the US, this has seen duty increase to 25% to match China, while the Asian country has responded by hiking its duty to 40%. 

This tit-for-tat might actually help European car makers because China, to spite the US, reduced tariffs on cars made everywhere outside the US to 15%. We can expect more upping-and-downing of tariffs during 2019 as the two superpowers manoeuvre around each other with the Trump administration even thinking about detonating its own 40% tariff on Chinese imports. Julian Rendell

New diesels will come back

Expect the harsh attitude from new car buyers towards diesel to soften once the penny drops that, under the new WLTP emissions regulations, the latest diesels produce cleaner real-world exhaust emissions than older petrol cars. Popular medium and large SUVs rely on frugal diesel engines to remain viable from the point of view of fuel costs and also CO2 emissions. Diesels generally will always be more economical than petrol cars or petrol hybrids for motorway users. Buyers who have switched away from diesel may find the real-world economy too compelling to not want to return to it. Jesse Crosse

Lewis Hamilton will win a sixth F1 title - and Max Verstappen will be his closest challenger

As Formula 1 predictions go, picking Lewis Hamilton to win a sixth title feels a bit too easy. Given Mercedes has been an oasis of calm in an off-season of change and Hamilton remains the benchmark for speed, it’s hardly a bold shout. So we’ll stick our neck out and tip Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as his closest rival. 

Why? The Honda engine isn’t as bad as many think, Red Bull will have Honda’s attention in a way Renault never did and, with Daniel Ricciardo gone, Verstappen will be the team’s focal point. 

And what of Sebastian Vettel? Well, Ferrari should be in the mix, but there are increasing signs of tension between driver and team, and new arrival Charles Leclerc should pose more of a challenge than Kimi Raikkonen. 

Another tip: with only the British Grand Prix live on terrestrial TV this year, expect viewing figures to drop substantially. James Attwood

Kris Meeke will fight for the WRC title

Kris Meeke’s World Rally Championship career seemingly came to an abrupt end when he was fired during 2018 after one crash too many. Instead, the Northern Irishman has landed a works Toyota drive. The Yaris WRC was arguably the fastest car of 2018, making the ultra-quick Meeke a genuine title threat. James Attwood

Volkswagen will break another EV record

Until a suitable electric motorsport championship arrives, VW is creating its own challenges. Last year, it was Pikes Peak (outright record: done); this year, the Nürburgring. Officially, a modified 671bhp ID R prototype will bid for the electric record – but VW thinks Porsche’s overall record can be beaten… James Attwood

Fernando Alonso will win the Indy 500

The two-time F1 world champion proved he was more than capable of winning the Indy 500 by leading for a large chunk of the race on his first attempt in 2017. Engine failure robbed him that time around, but in 2019 he’ll have better luck (even if the entry is run directly by McLaren this time) and secure that Triple Crown. Dan Prosser

The new Land Rover Defender’s design will make Brexit debate seem mild…

Actually, a very large part of me thinks that there won’t be a debate and that automotive enthusiasts have already closed their minds to accepting the new Defender

But here’s hoping that Autocar readers are a bit broader-minded than this – and that we can all wait until the covers come off before leaping to conclusions. After all, the best pictures we’ve seen of the Defender so far are resplendent in camouflage to make the SAS proud. 

The case for the defence has merit. First, if the Defender is to exist at all, Land Rover must turn it from a 20,000-units-a-year seller to a 50,000-a-year one. It would be business suicide to plough the same furrow carved by the old Defender. 

Second, they won’t be launching a new Defender per se, but rather a new family of Defenders. Does that mean there will be one designed for showing off in Chelsea rather than traversing a swollen Zambezi? Probably. But don’t moan: just take your pick. 

Finally, Land Rover’s design team arrive at this point with a string of king-hits to their name, the rear end of the latest Discovery aside (arguably). Like it or not (and isn’t it so very British to be snooty about it), they have knocked out success after success. Could it be that they could top their greatest triumph of recent times – the Evoque, surely – and unveil a Defender that makes us all fall in love with it? 

(… and it might break our website)

The most highly anticipated car of the century? Probably. If there’s one car that will make our website break, from sheer number of readers, it’s the Defender. Lucky we’ve got a powerful website, then… Jim Holder

Car makers will co-operate more

It wasn’t so long ago that marques that were owned by the same company couldn’t fathom ways to work together (we’re talking about you, Saab), overlooking the potential to save tens of millions in development costs by sharing know-how internally. 

Now, though, it’s all the rage for marques that aren’t even owned by the same company to work together, be it PSA and BMW, BMW and Toyota, Renault, Nissan and Mercedes, Mazda and Fiat, Audi and Hyundai, or Ford and Volkswagen. 

Expect to see this trend intensify as car makers face up to the challenges (and costs) of developing hybrid, electric and hydrogen powertrains at the same time as investing in connectivity, autonomy and more. Jim Holder

Jaguar Land Rover will make a comeback

Things aren’t brilliant at JLR right now. Which comes as quite a shock. We’re all so used to repeated tales of stellar sales success, especially at Land Rover, that recent news of JLR reverses (sending parent Tata Group’s shares much closer to ‘junk’ status than is comfortable) makes scary, out-of-character reading. But I predict a JLR comeback later in 2019. President Trump seems closer to healing his rift over tariffs with the Chinese that has cost JLR “thousands” of car sales there. The current web of uncertainty over Brexit must surely reach a firmer basis by March – even if there will undoubtedly be lingering problems to solve – and (as Autocar readers will be well aware) both Jaguar and Land Rover are known to have a series of enticing, rule-changing cars to launch this year and next. 

Meanwhile, JLR’s full-steam expansion of its Gaydon HQ, which is creating a home for no fewer than 12,000 engineers, continues to speak loudly of long-term company confidence. Most importantly, the people behind the recent explosive expansion of JLR’s business are still on the job (their ranks augmented by others of similar skill), so it’s difficult to see why they won’t build an impressive recovery – and soon. Steve Cropley

We’ll learn more about Ineos and Ford’s Bridgend plant

This year should see the emergence of more detail about ‘Projekt Grenadier’, the rugged 4x4 that British chemical company Ineos plans to sell in 2021 as a spiritual successor to the discontinued Land Rover Defender. 

First should be details of the production site for the 25,000 Grenadiers Ineos plans to build each year, with Ford’s Bridgend plant in the running along with at least one other, unnamed location. Bridgend will have excess capacity in 2020 when a contract to build Jaguar Land Rover’s V8 petrol engines comes to an end. Julian Rendell

2019 will be an electric year

In 2018 we got excited about the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-tron and Mercedes EQ C, but this will be the year when viable all-electric alternatives to petrol and diesel really begin to take off. Where Tesla led the way in range – at a price – others now follow with more affordable long-range EVs. The 64kWh versions of Hyundai’s Kona Electric and the forthcoming Kia e-Niro are examples of how fast range and price are converging, and both are capable of longrange road trips. 

We’ll also see exciting new cars such as the Volkswagen ID hatchback, which VW claims will cost the same as a Golf diesel; the Honda Urban EV, a handsome retro supermini; and the Porsche Taycan. Announcements from other manufacturers are likely before 2019 is out if they are not to risk being left behind. The year of the EV is upon us. Jesse Crosse/Rachel Burgess

Hyundai-Kia will keep on astounding

Remember the first time you pondered just how far Hyundai and Kia had come in such a short space of time, probably about 10 years ago? Chances are you have pondered the same point just about every single year since. The co-owned firms’ rate of growth is as relentless as it is remarkable. 

Today, you’ll note a line-up of mainstream models that equal the most established of their opposition in every sector of the market. You’ll appreciate that they have launched a hot hatch in the i30 N that is, at the first attempt, a rival to the best on sale. Then you’ll consider that the Kona Electric (and soon Kia e-Niro) has completely rewritten the electric car cost versus range equation. And, finally, you’ll nod approvingly that the second-generation Nexo hydrogen fuel cell car that’s already on sale before most car makers have even launched such a product. Jim Holder

PHEV sales will fall

Plug-in hybrid sales have been growing for some time now, offering a perfect first step towards zero emissions. But, in September last year, the Government announced it was axing the plug-in grant for PHEVs, instead focusing on incentives for pure electric models. Now there’s every chance the UK will follow in the footsteps of the Netherlands. It was the leading market for PHEVs in 2015, thanks to generous tax incentives for company car drivers, and then as the grants waned, the market collapsed. Now, the Netherlands isn’t even in the top 10 European markets for PHEVs. Rachel Burgess

Nobody will receive a TVR

I’ll be amazed if a TVR customer takes delivery in 2019. As it stands, TVR still has to source 25% of the parts for its new Griffith and the factory is apparently seven months delayed owing to unforeseen paperwork difficulties. This wouldn’t be a problem if nobody had been shown the car yet and a load of deposits hadn’t been taken for it. While in some ways it’s great to see a project evolve, ultimately I prefer the Ariel route: ‘Here’s our new car. It’s finished. We start building next week. Want to buy one?’ Matt Prior

EV platforms will get more sophisticated

Electric car mechanical architecture will begin to change. Generally, pure EV platforms follow a familiar theme: batteries at the bottom, between the axles, because they’re big and heavy and not exactly malleable, and that’s where they’re safest and keep a car most agile. It’s why EVs suit being crossovers. 

Already this skateboard-style architecture offers packaging advantages over making room for an engine, but EVs will offer more advantages again once power reserves don’t have to be in one big solid block together. There will only be shoots of this to look for in 2019, but skateboard platforms have slashed the cost of entry into the car market, so the establishment will try to find more sophisticated ways to do things to give them a competitive advantage. Matt Prior

We’ll learn more about the UK battery industrialisation centre

Will the Government be able to name a major tier one cell manufacturer (maybe Panasonic, LG Chem or Siemens) for the plant in Coventry that recently won planning permission? Construction is expected to start in mid-2019 and finish in 2020, while behind-the-scenes efforts to market the UK as a global hub for cell manufacture gather pace. Julian Rendell

The age of the coach builder will return

The so-called skateboard electric car platform has quickly become the layout of choice for premium EVs. The battery cells and motors are all commodities, which means a global automotive supplier will soon start offering its own such platform to car makers. Not only does that save manufacturers the cost of developing one themselves, it also means smaller firms will be able to buy in a rolling chassis and add their own bodywork and cabins. The age of the automotive coachbuilder will be back upon us. Dan Prosser

Vauxhall will continue to bounce back

Vauxhall-Opel returned to profit for the first time in 19 years in 2018, having been under PSA ownership for little more than 12 months. It’s not without bad news – we’ve already seen two waves of job losses at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant – but PSA boss Carlos Tavares believes such cost-cutting will ultimately be a force for good. First signs are positive – next, the 2019 Corsa needs to prove its worth. Rachel Burgess

Tesla will be bought

To Tesla’s army of fervent followers, the company has already rewritten the rules of the car industry and will always remain ahead of the field. To others, it’s a punky upstart that’s about to be overcome by the weight of experience that those same established car makers have built up over 100 years. Perhaps a scenario that sits between the two will be where the dice finally settles. As the EV market hots up, it’s perfectly conceivable that some Tesla investors will wish to cash in, and old-school car makers may eagerly step up to buy some of that stardust. A Volkswagen ID Tesla edition? You read it here first… Jim Holder

We’ll see less of Elon Musk

Another Tesla take is that 2019 will be the year when the firm settles down and makes headlines for the right reasons – well-built new models, growing sales and a reliable trading profit. The key date is May/June, when Robyn Denholm, a new independent chairperson, takes up her role, replacing Tesla founder Elon Musk. Denholm was a Tesla non-executive director and head of strategy at Australian mobile phone operator Telstra. 

At the urging of the US stock market regulator, the SEC, she was appointed as Tesla chairperson in November 2018, after Musk’s erratic communications last year were ruled as misleading to investors. 

Denholm is sitting out a six-month notice period until mid-2019, and arrives with a brief to bring greater corporate responsibility to Tesla’s relations with the US stock market. 

But damping down Musk’s increasingly irrational management style can also only benefit Tesla’s business and the cars it builds, especially with the right-hand-drive Model 3 due on sale in the UK in late 2019 and the Model Y compact crossover due for global reveal in mid-2019. Julian Rendell

There will be more emissions scandals

I don’t think we’ve seen the last revelation of emission-test rigging. I reckon there are too many companies, with too many people, under too many pressures, for more corners not to have been cut. Matt Prior

Read more

New Cars 2019: What's coming and when?

New electric cars 2019/2020: What’s coming and when?​

What we're excited for in 2019​

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Comments
15

12 January 2019

Prediction 2018: Tesla will go bunkrupt

Prediction 2018: Tesla will be bought

Prediction 2020: Tesla will buy Jaguar

12 January 2019
Sonic wrote:

Prediction 2018: Tesla will go bunkrupt

Prediction 2019: Tesla will be bought

Prediction 2020: Tesla will buy Jaguar

Prediction 2019 - Autocar doesn't give us a post editor. 

13 January 2019
Sonic wrote:

Prediction 2018: Tesla will go bunkrupt

Prediction 2018: Tesla will be bought

Prediction 2020: Tesla will buy Jaguar

Tesla will never go bankrupt as a Tech giant will always be interested. If apple or google do buyTesla then they can grow at ten fold they do now. Either Apple/google have market caps that are more then all the european car companies combined with Apple having more in reserve then any 1 european company is worth. Tesla could out spend everyone without worrying about cash flow. 

12 January 2019

JLR will be sold.

JLR bosses will be sacked.

I'm surprised Autocar didn't go with this, I see they have picked up some of my previous comments.  Why, why will JLR be sold?...

S&P have said that JLR's free operating cashflow will not just be negative, but significantly negative for the next TWO YEARS, totalling £4 billion by 2020.  JLR is actually doing TOO LITTLE to turn the company around.  Simply reducing its workforce doesn't cut it, this saves a mere £280 million (cutting 10% of the workforce) - and nothing said about the multi-million pound wages of the very people who have mis-managed JLR!  JLR needs massive investment in new models that Tata cannot finance because it's been dragged down by JLR.  JLR needs to drop models like 4-door cars and move to where the market is going - SUVs, but not up-market SUVs, SMALL SUVs (and I make no apology for yet again stating that JLR should have been producing cars like the Jimny, the Yeti and the Mokka - this is where the future money is).  So I'm afraid that if JLR doesn't get a serious handle on its operational costs and start offering cars that people want (Evoque aside) then JLR will even be too poor to be sold!  That's why the sale has to happen this year.  After that, JLR will actually start to become toxic, as lack of investment and failure to properly stem its operational costs means the company simply grinds to a failure.  The release of the Defender, which MUST be brought forward to this year, will help make the company look a little rosey to a potential buyer.

However, if the management at JLR continue as they have been going for years then the Defender won't be released for sale until 2020, by which time JLR will be in very serious trouble, and won't attract any buyers except rich Chinese who will get it for a song.  Will Tata leave it that late?  No, so expect JLR to be sold this year.

 

I say my bit, then go. So although I'm interested in what you may initially say, I don't care what you think about what I've written, so I won't read whatever your reply is.

12 January 2019

Not going to comment further on Brexit, except to say that the talking is far from done. The EU say negotiating the future relationship will be much more complex than the withdrawal agreement... the uncertainty could run and run, which will kill investment in UK manufacturing regardless.

20k a year sales of the old Defender was actually very good, given how hopelessly out of date it was. A modern replacement serving the same customer base would triple that, easily. JLR have voluntarily walked away from the utility off roader market and that is a great shame.

289

12 January 2019

In reply to your collective predictions, I think the suggestion that diesel will see a rebound is pretty far fetched and probably 'sponsored' by JLR/SMMT.

The very word diesel is too 'toxic' to buyers now even with Euro 6, and purchasers just know that Governments are going to see them as a cash-cow for making that choice. Add to that a current 11p per litre premium for diesel in the UK plus the add blue costs and dpf issues, and it just doesnt stack up for drivers of less that 40k miles p.a.

JLR is in a fix (self made in the main), and I am not sure how this will pan out. Died in the wool Land Rover fans will never accept the new Defender because it will not be a replacement for the old one. Sadly economics dictate that there is no profit in building 'farmers cars'.

Maybe a sale at least of Land Rover is inevitable....cant see a future for Jaguar sadly.

I think hybrids will continue to be an option for those who wish to dip their toe into greener cars avoiding dependancy of charging point availability on longer runs.

Vauxhall will need a miracle to turn around...the market they operate in is withering as buyers look for premium badged alternatives at similar pcp costs.

Tesla....who cares.

Indy Cars.....who cares.

I think manufacturers have been eyeing up enviously the opening of plants in countries like Slovakia for a while....great build quality and sensible workrates make this inevitable...Brexit creates the perfect excuse for plans which would have happened anyway.

Hamilton will win another championship this year and not stop until he at least equals Schumachers record 7 championships.

Kris Meeke should never have been sacked from Citroen...yes he breaks cars, but so did Vatanen - and Ford stood by this star! Citroen may live to rue the day with Kris in the Toyota!

I think the one area Autocar has missed is that 2019 will see record demand for used cars....limited only by supply, meaning values will be rising. The cost of VED for the first 3 years on premium bigger cars meaning that 4 year old examples will be very attractive.

12 January 2019
289 wrote:

In reply to your collective predictions, I think the suggestion that diesel will see a rebound is pretty far fetched and probably 'sponsored' by JLR/SMMT.

The very word diesel is too 'toxic' to buyers now even with Euro 6, and purchasers just know that Governments are going to see them as a cash-cow for making that choice. Add to that a current 11p per litre premium for diesel in the UK plus the add blue costs and dpf issues, and it just doesnt stack up for drivers of less that 40k miles p.a.

I think the one area Autocar has missed is that 2019 will see record demand for used cars....limited only by supply, meaning values will be rising. The cost of VED for the first 3 years on premium bigger cars meaning that 4 year old examples will be very attractive.

Your claims about diesel seem a bit bold. 40k miles? As a diesel, motorway, 25k per annum driver myself - I can tell you that diesel absolutely does stack up for drivers of less than 40k per year. Sure, not be the same margin as a few years ago when the gap at the pumps was narrower - but in real world economy terms, turbo petrols absolutely do not compare to their equivalent diesels, speaking from experience. There’s £300-£400 per year fuel savings in some cases, even with the more expensive list prices taken into account. The Honest John fuel calculator thingy is a useful tool for seeing this, too. I also don’t want to be filling up my car more than once per week, and with any petrol model, I would be.

I think there’s a few years left in diesels yet - but probably not too many. The government need to get their act together on EV infrastructure before the long distance diesel drivers who maybe don’t have off-street parking to charge up an EV, are able to switch easily to electric motoring.

Agreed on used vehicles though. PCPs seem a lot less competitive now than they did a few years ago, and there seem to have been huge price hikes recently on new cars - e.g £28k for a hybrid Corolla?!?! 


"Work hard and be nice to people"

289

13 January 2019

I hear your points Mini....although the £3-400 saving in fuel is a bit borderline if you have any issues with your diesel engined car....£400 doesnt go far to asuage the costs of a new dpf or injectors.

Maybe you are looking at it from a new car perspective where the car is at least under warranty.

From a used car perspective (and the used car market is nearly three times the size of new), diesels can be a money-pit where fuel savings wouldnt swing the balance.

Of course now that you can have a pcp on a used car, the demand for good examples will only continue to increase.

12 January 2019

Dyson, the right-winger who has explained that his support for Brexshit is based on wanting to slash workers' rights. And who has shown his commitment to the UK by locating production for every product he makes in Asia.

Dyson is (as several friends who have worked for him attest) an unpleasant, dictatorial and arrogant character. I've owned 2 of his vacuums, and they were rubbish - far inferior to the German model I have now.

The electric car project is the usual Dyson (and Leave) mix of hubris and delusion. There will not be a viable car produced which is in any way suitable for sale in Europe or the US. If (and it's a big "if") he gets anything to market it will be a tiny, poor-performing and badly-specced basic vehicle that he can flog in developing markets to not-very-discerning customers.

The man's a total shyster, and needs to be exposed.

12 January 2019

That's Sir Dyson to you.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

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