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December 28, 2018

GM Predicts End of Manual Gearbox and 9 Other Automotive Trends in 2019

GM International, which oversees the Chevrolet, Holden, and Cadillac brands in Asia-Pacific region, collaborated with Richard Watson, founder of and author of Digital Vs. Human, for his Top 10 automotive trends to watch in 2019.

“In 2019, Asia-Pacific will still be the growth region, manifested in its overall sense of optimism about the future compared to the general sense of disillusionment in the rest of the world,” Watson said regarding overall market conditions that influence vehicle sales. “Asia-Pacific is looking forward, while the rest of the world looks back.”

While not all of the following top trend picks will be evident throughout the region in 2019, one can expect to see them emerge very soon, probably faster than anyone expects. In fact, Watson’s prognosis for the near future aligns with efforts already underway by GM Global to transform the automotive industry for the 21st century, including:

#1. Self-driving cars continue rapid development

Expect to see further development of autonomous transportation, including cars, trains, buses, trucks, and perhaps, eventually, planes. GM’s self-driving vehicle unit, Cruise Automation, is in a race to be first to bring fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) to market. GM is already an acknowledged leader in the development of self-driving vehicle technologies, with Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous system already available in China and U.S.

#2. Continued growth and investment in electric vehicles and alternative fuels

GM’s strong core business and global demand for its pickup trucks and SUVs allows the company to invest heavily in the technology of the future. GM announced in 2017 its plans to launch 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023. At the same time, GM is working closely with industry partners to develop hydrogen fuel cell EVs in the not-too-distant future. GM’s work on EVs is coordinated with its efforts on autonomous driving systems as part of GM’s vision for a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

#3. Polarizations between large/small, expensive/cheap and green/non-green cars

While automakers continue to invest in EVs, they are also responding to popular demand for pickup trucks and SUVs, vehicle segments that will be transformed by GM’s advances in electrification and alternative fuels in the coming years. Case in point, GM recently unveiled a new ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric pickup truck, with a next-generation engine and a Chevrolet Silverado chassis. Based on a Chevrolet Colorado ZH2, the concept truck is the most extreme off-road-capable fuel-cell-powered electric vehicle ever from GM, and could lead to the development of a new generation of eco-friendly pickup trucks.

#4. Decline of driving licenses held by younger people, especially in cities

Research by Schroders shows the proportion of young people who have a driving license or own a vehicle has fallen in recent years. Meanwhile, the rise of car sharing services, such as Grab and Lyft, is a contributing factor. In 2016, GM responded to this market trend by investing in Lyft, working with the ride-hailing service startup to develop an on-demand network of self -driving cars and set up a series of short-term car rental hubs where GM will become the preferred provider of cars to Lyft drivers.

#5. Growth of ride-sharing, community-owned transport, and fractional ownership 

In line with the decline in driver’s licenses, has been the rise of ride sharing. In Australia earlier this year, Holden celebrated one year of GM’s Maven Gig in operation. Since its launch, Maven Gig has achieved significant growth as more Australians turn to freelancing and the sharing economy to generate income and look for flexible ways to get on the road faster. As the personal mobility solution for members of the freelance economy celebrates its first anniversary, Maven Gig has reached a major milestone with its 1000th car hitting the road.

#6. Trend towards smaller, lighter vehicles (and growth in advanced nano materials)

Stringent government regulations to meet fuel emission standards and advancements in technologies and materials has made lightweighting (or weight optimization) a major focus of carmakers everywhere. Versions of the current generation Chevrolet Corvette, now available in the Philippines, feature an ultra-light carbon fiber hood and carbon-nano composite underbody panel. GM is using new, advanced software design technology to introduce the next generation of vehicle light weighting. The technology is key to developing efficient and lighter alternative propulsion and zero emission vehicles.

#7. Growth of connected cars and integrated city-wide transport solutions

Connected cars, enabled by vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications, will likely play an essential role in improving traffic safety and efficiency when widely deployed. GM has been at the forefront of driving V2X deployment in China. In 2016, GM became one of the first vehicle manufacturers to demonstrate the interoperability of V2X applications in the country. In 2017, GM successfully demonstrated its V2I capability on public roads in Shanghai. More recently, GM participated in the first-ever multi-industry demonstration of C-V2X (cellular connected car communications).

#8. 3D printing of car components and perhaps whole cars (extending to 4D materials)

It is no secret that automakers like GM helped pioneer the use of 3D printers to fabricate prototypes for vehicle development. Earlier this year, GM said it is working with design software company Autodesk Inc. to manufacture new lightweight 3D-printed parts that could help the automaker meet its goals to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its product lineup. Within a year or so, GM expects these new 3D-printed parts to appear in high-end, motorsports applications. Within five years, GM hopes to produce thousands or tens of thousands of parts at scale as the technology improves. Could the use of shape-shifting transformable 4D printed materials be far behind? Possibly.

#9. Death of the manual gearbox 

While some automakers, GM included, still offer manual transmissions on a handful of models, advances in the fuel efficiency and performance of automatic transmissions has all but eliminated demand for stick-shift cars. On the other hand, the rise of paddle shifters allows drivers to manually shift an automatic transmission with steering-wheel- or steering-column-mounted levers, but some experts say it’s a passing fad. In a 2017 report, GM said that 62 percent of drivers used their paddle shifters less than two times per year.

#10. Impacts of aging populace on car design and use

While the median age of people in Southeast Asia is under 30, other countries around the world have a much older populace; the median age in Japan is nearly 50. In the past, old age meant limited mobility and the need for vehicle designs to accommodate people who have less flexibility. These days, the older generation is generally more active, and their vehicle of choice is increasingly super-popular midsize crossovers that offer easy entry and exit. In addition, advanced technologies such as the active safety technologies that proliferate on GM vehicles will help drivers of every age avoid accidents. GM’s introduction of autonomous driving systems and ride-hailing services will further aid older customers.


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