The Speculator: 2017, 2018, 2019…

Coming soon to NAIAS – Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA

As 2016 comes to a close, our eyes turn to 2017.

The coming year is full of promise for the automotive industry. We could close this year with the magic number of 17 million vehicles sold with possibly 10 million of them classified as trucks – pickups, vans and SUV/Crossovers. Some have been cautious as to how 2017 will play out as our eyes are fixed to Washington and the transition of power to a new Administration. Some wondered if sales will drop or not. Some wondered how much of the regulations set by previous Administrations would be rolled back, or whether new regulations will kick in instead.

No one knows what will happen in 2017. All we do know is the tide of new product will continue to roll in their respective showrooms. Some will be significant, as they open up a new set of customers for them. Others would seek to advance the current model to further heights. An advanced look at the debuts set for 2017 tells us that we are in for an exciting year ahead.

Economics and analyst predictions be damned, The Speculator is in the house. This is a job for a keen eye on the market to see whether this latest crop of new vehicles will make an impact on the customer base. All it takes is some intelligence – smarts, perhaps – to see the future and its real world impact for each new product.

The Speculator admits being wrong – the Dodge Dart, for example. But, things have improved and predictability and knowledge has sharpened.

So…what do we have in store for 2017 and beyond?

2018 LEXUS LC AND LS: The newest generation of its most enduring vehicle will debut at the North American International Auto Show on January 9 in Detroit. It will share its DNA with a new grand touring coupe, the LC. The LC is scheduled to arrive by mid-year, so the LS should arrive in the fall. Maybe. Who knows? The big takeaway is the transition in design from concept to production, as seen on the LC coupe. While the LC offer a 5.0 liter V8, but I wonder if that same engine will appear in the LS sedan, as well. The LC will also be offered in a Hybrid model, which also puts the question forth for an offering on the LS, also. Lexus needs both of these models because they create a new halo on top of the brand. I, for one, am looking forward to enjoying these two potentially magnificent automobiles.

2018 HONDA ACCORD: From the spy photos, one would hope that the popular mid-sized family sedan would take on the radical new look of the Civic. That would be a great start, considering that the Accord needs to be more distinguished than before. By adopting the new design tenets laid down by the current Civic, the Accord would also find style-seeking buyers for its range. What would help is the adoption of the single-screen infotainment system, along with some of the tech found on the Civic. It would also help to offer the Honda Sense suite to other models, as currently seen on the Civic. One would hope for turbocharging, along with the V6 and Hybrid models. A lot riding on the new Accord when it competes with the newest mid-sizers towards the end of this decade.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA

2018 TOYOTA CAMRY: Even from a glimpse of the teaser photo, this could be one of the finest sedans Toyota has ever sold here. The design takes a cue from the current Prius – a disturbance in the automotive universe which is aimed to shock and awe its opponents. Toyota needs the Camry to be different and advanced to retain its lead among passenger car sales. Debuting on January 9 at NAIAS, the new Camry should take a different approach to the mid-sized family sedan. The Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu took major leaps in design in their current generations; the Camry looks like it would do the same. There is more, however. What that "more" is has been tightly under wraps. One would hope for the retention of the V6 and Hybrid options with an additional turbocharged engine as a choice for power. One would hope that Camry would take another step in active safety, as well. We shall see in a few weeks…

2018 HONDA ODYSSEY: American Honda is on a new product roll. The upcoming Odyssey will finish the trifecta on the new platform underpinning the current Pilot and Ridgeline. Will that mean taking on the elements that are currently on both models – single touch screen infotainment, digital speedometer with the wide TFT screen in the middle. It could also mean taking on the nine-speed automatic with push-button actuation. But, what about everything else? HondaVac? A better seat fold-down system? An inspired look that would take from the Pilot, Ridgeline or, even, the Civic? This new minivan is set to appear at NAIAS on January 9 where all will be revealed.

2018 NISSAN ALTIMA: What's next on Nissan's agenda? Maybe the long-awaited new Frontier pickup to do battle with the latest Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado? If that happens, wake me up when it does. In the meantime, the next new product will come from the car side of Nissan could might as well be its now-second most popular product – the Altima mid-sized family sedan. With the ground-breaking Maxima fresh on everyone’s minds, one would expect a lot of influence from the big car to shape the new Altima. Will that new package include a turbocharged engine, the new hybrid system shown on the Rogue and retention of the V6 option? Will it see a more sporty profile and cabin? Will it expand on active safety technology? When this car shows itself, we hope all will indeed be revealed.

2018 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR: Even though the Continental is getting all of the attention, it is not the actual reboot of Lincoln. The next Navigator will be. The big luxury SUV begins a new round of product for the brand that will emphasize higher levels of refinement, technology, safety and overall execution. We will see a bit of the Navigator in the 2018 Ford Expedition rumored to debut at NAIAS on January 9, but there appears to be a lot more differentiation between the two this time around. We should expect twin-turbocharged performance (just don't call it "EcoBoost") with a huge torque pull to maintain or increase maximum towing capacity. We should also see a host of Navigator-specific technologies for towing management, vehicle-specific active safety and stability technologies and a new level of luxury through upholstery materials and sound reprocessing. And, we all thought the big SUV was dead…

2018 VOLVO XC60: Can we please stop calling this a "scaled down XC90?" The bigger, award-winning model set the tone for how Volvo Cars should be shaped for the future. Though power will continue from the Drive-E family of engines, we should see a different personality from the new smaller SUV. Of course, we will see the same tablet-like screen for SENSUS, the TFT full screen instrumentation and the IntelliSafe suite of driver assistance features. However, it should be set as its own vehicle – a two-row smaller SUV that will compete head on with the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLC. The importance of the next XC60 is that it will set the tone of the "60 Series" of vehicles – the next sedan and wagon due by the end of the decade.

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America

2018/19 SUBARU THREE-ROW SUV: What we saw from the Viziv-7 Concept was a Subie made for families beyond the Forester and Outback. I can see turbocharged four-cylinder and H6 power under its hood – both with power outputs that match its competitors and enable a strong maximum towing rating. Importantly, it has to outdo its stablemates in terms of interior design, space utilization and seven-passenger seating. Once it does that, it should have no problem taking its place in this segment. Having a Subaru in the mix will not only help this brand, but for customers loyal to the brand from preventing them to go elsewhere. This is how important this next vehicle will be for Subaru.

LOOKING DEEPER INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles delayed a lot of new product due to a slowdown in its business along with other challenges. Already set for showroom debuts are the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia and 2018 Stelvio and the 2018 Jeep Compass. It is unclear how the top of the Jeep range, along with the third iteration of the LX platform will become. There had been too much talk and not enough action out of Milan, Turin and Auburn Hills. Volkswagen has the 2018 Atlas set for the spring, but what about the US version of the Tiguan? We saw the Euro version at Geneva, but on indicator on when it will arrive here. VW understands the power of the compact SUV in the marketplace and they know they have to do this right to really compete. Afterwards, we should see the MkVIII Golf and a new Jetta that balances value with refinement.

Ford has not said anything about the fate of their largest car – the Taurus. Sales for the Big Bull his starting to bottom out, despite public safety departments submitting orders for the Interceptor version. Either it goes away or they make a new one off of an extended Fusion platform. While General Motors goes through challenges at their plants regarding back stock of cars, their next wave will focus on SUVs. With the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Terrain set for new generation models, all eyes will be on Buick and Cadillac for their next models. You can count Buick on a next generation Enclave, but what about Cadillac? We keep on hearing about a model to slot between the XT5 and Escalade with three rows and CT6 power. We also heard about a smaller SUV below the XT5. If all of this is true – bring it on!

Mazda is banking on the new Skyactiv turbocharged diesel for the upcoming CX-5, but will we see this in the next generation Mazda6? What will we expect from the next generation of the 3 and 6 – including the turbocharged version of the Skyativ engine for a performance version? Will the next generation Toyota Tundra pickup crack the half-ton full-size pickup code to start really eating into Big Three sales? It might take more than just a new design, new cabin and a better engine lineup to do so. I am also watching the next Corolla and how they would fully integrate the sedan and hatchback into their lineup.

Photo courtesy of Groupe Renault via Google Images

Lastly, I believe I should address Mitsubishi. With Carlos Ghosn now in charge of the three-diamond brand, there is a golden opportunity to leverage the entire Renault Nissan Alliance for an entirely new generation of automobiles. This may include new drivelines and technology, but it could also include completely new vehicles. Badge engineering might be the case for the next round of new product, I'm afraid. We could someday say "Good news! The Dacia Sandeiro is now a Mitsubishi!" Although, a Renault Megane could make a darn good next-generation Lancer. This is just the icing of the cake…

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