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Generation Y car buyers have little patience for the ‘old’ ways of the auto industry. This Internet-savvy group wants good fuel economy in a ride that feels like an extension of their smart phones. Chevy’s answer for this is the 2013 Spark. (General Motors)
Generation Y car buyers have little patience for the ‘old’ ways of the auto industry. This Internet-savvy group wants good fuel economy in a ride that feels like an extension of their smart phones. Chevy’s answer for this is the 2013 Spark. (General Motors)

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You won’t find brown paper pasted to the windows of your local car dealership this fall. That sort of thing is long gone, though a few of you will remember the buzz, the heart-pumping excitement of a time when September was a riot of new models.

These days, though, the auto industry is alive with bigger and more interesting developments than a mere collection of new fenders hidden behind butcher paper and highlighted with balloons. You will still find new sheet metal among the 2013 models, but the developments and trends run deeper than cosmetic change. What’s new from the auto industry in the fall of 2012 is really and truly new.

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Take performance and fuel economy. Virtually every all-new model introduced for 2013 will boast a bump in power and a friendly step forward at the fuel pump. To get there, car companies have become fanatical about reducing weight, boosting engine efficiency, refining and reinventing transmission technology and streamlining car designs so they slip through the air with less resistance.

The goal is to improve performance in every way, not just from 0-100 km/h. In short, a broad-based improvement in overall performance is one thing to look for among the 2013 models – fuel savings with no loss of muscle.

Meanwhile, a long list of auto makers will keep chasing Generation Y buyers – twentysomethings or Millennials, if you will, with affordable small cars loaded with the features a generation of wired, smart phone-obsessed young people demand. The Chevrolet Spark subcompact is a perfect example.

Millennials will some day replace baby boomers as the dominant demographic in the car business, but not quite yet. That’s why the industry is also looking after mature buyers who purchase mid-size family cars. This fall, the new Altima will be joined in competition by all-new versions of the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and the Honda Accord. That foursome of all-new 2013s will compete with recently updated versions of the Volkswagen Passat and Toyota Camry, to name two, as well as stalwarts of the segment such as the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

Many mid-size buyers this fall will be leasing a new ride, which brings us to another major development: leasing. Leasing is making a comeback. Those 2013 mid-size cars will come loaded with all sorts of high-tech gizmos and electronic features, and managing them is emerging as a major challenge. So that’s development No. 5.

With that scene-setter, here is a closer look at five major standout developments to watch as the new models of 2013 roll into showrooms starting next month:

1. Leasing makes a comeback

Leasing, notes auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, is returning to the Canadian market.

“Close to 50 per cent of Canadians leased their vehicle at the peak a few years ago and this dropped to less than 10 per cent with the financial crisis in 2008. The issue wasn’t the demand for leasing it was the availability of leasing products,” he says in a note to clients.

Those products, he adds, are becoming more widely available now because original equipment manufacturers are once again able to turn bundles of leased vehicles into securities, then selling them to investors.

“Leasing accounted for close to 20 per cent of sales in 2011 and should account for mid- to high-20 per cent in 2012. With very high used vehicle prices a lot of consumers could embrace a new vehicle especially if they are able to lease,” notes the analyst.

Leasing also is getting a boost from a recovery among residual values of younger used vehicles. According to DesRosiers Automotive, data from Canadian Black Book suggest residual values of three-year-old used passenger cars have risen steadily in recent years, from 49 per cent in 2010 to 50.8 per cent in 2011 and again to 54.6 per cent in 2012. Light trucks have also seen gains, climbing from 48.2 per cent in 2010 to 50.6 per cent in 2012.

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