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Previews and predictions for the auto industry in 2013 Add to ...

But it’s not the RAV4 that will drive the bulk of Toyota’s growth. No, it’s another barrage of new models. In 2013, expect to see a new Corolla compact, a new Highlander SUV, a re-engineered Tundra pickup and a redesigned Sequoia large SUV. At Lexus, look for a new IS lineup and the debut of the CX. And at Toyota’s “youth brand,” Scion will have replacements for the xB compact box and the xD subcompact box.

With Toyota and Lexus’s new models, I expect more of what we’ve seen in 2012. Toyota will stick with its conservative approach and win more quality awards. Lexus will refine that bizarre spindle grille on its next new models and throw in all sorts of fancy technology. Now, at Scion, the youth branding thing is going to go away quietly. Scions are as popular with pensioners as they are with Gen Y so why not give old baby boomers their due?

GENERAL MOTORS

This brings us to my predictions last year for the Detroit auto makers. As I said, General Motors’ Cadillac luxury brand has been getting new models, the most startling of them being the ATS sedan aimed squarely at the BMW 3-Series. I am not joking. The ATS is a superb automobile trapped inside a brand GM hasn’t been able to market successfully in nearly two decades. The 2013 Caddy XTX is also very good, by the way.

GM has this year put in place a new leadership team, with GM’s former top Washington lobbyist now in charge. That’s a head-scratching move to say the least, but maybe it will work out well for Caddy. The head of product development at GM used to run the human resources department. Clearly anything is possible.

But I’m not optimistic. I predict a continuing muddle at Caddy for 2013, despite a really great emerging lineup of vehicles.

Speaking of future Caddies, in 2013 we’re going to see a new ELR plug-in hybrid based on the smart Chevrolet Volt. The hulking Escalade SUV is also getting a redesign, but the most important new Cadillac coming in 2013 is the CTS. Caddy plans to take aim at BMW’s 5-Series with it and if the ATS is any indication, the hardware will live up to advance billing.

Also at GM, in the coming 12-18 months, the U.S. Government will divest itself of its ownership take. That will rid GM of the hated “Government Motors” tag. Given that our Canadian Government generally – not always, but generally – takes its cues from Washington, I expect Ottawa and the Ontario government to dump their GM stake within 18 months, too.

I am hopeful that, with the Government Motors thing out of the way, GM will move with more urgency to fix its culture and, by doing so, improve its products and the speed at which they come to dealerships. This isn’t just my view; CEO Dan Akerson has said as much in interviews and public statements.

We’re going to know just how “fixed” and “new” GM is by the time these various governments have sold their shares. GM is embarking on a huge global product offensive. Over the next 12 to 18 months, Automotive News notes that GM will introduce redesigns of its biggest money makers, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and its four big SUVs.

“We’re very aware of how important this launch is,” Akerson told the publication, referring to the pickups. “How well we execute is critically important.”

Next year, GM will also launch the next Chevrolet Corvette, the redesigned Chevrolet Impala, the new Buick Encore and the next generation of GM’s mid-sized pickups, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. As Akerson noted at the company’s annual meeting this past summer, by the end of 2013, 70 per cent of GM’s U.S. nameplates will be new or redesigned. Chevrolet alone is readying 13 new or redesigned models for launch next year.

If, by the end of 2013, GM is not more profitable while also increasing sales and market share, then taxpayers should start getting worried. In other words, I predict that 2013 is a make-or-break year for GM.

FORD

To Ford. Here we have a very profitable auto maker, where sales are increasing based on a “One Ford” global product plan. Sure, Ford’s European business is a mess, but only Volkswagen is managing reasonably well on the Continent. Ford does have a plan to fix its European operation and I expect it to show dividends in 2013.

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