Fashion isn’t the only import that rocks your world.
I love traveling to Europe in the fall. I get a peek at the fashion trends that will be popping up on our streets in the next few months (black tights and short boots are still a thing, along with long pleated skirts in bright colors). I get to drink wine at lunch and not feel guilty. And, I get to see the future cars that will make waves in the US in the coming months and years.
I went to the Frankfurt Motor Show and got a look at what is going to influence the automotive market in the coming months and years. And it was good. Stylish, smart, responsible, and fun.
What Are Europeans Concerned About?
Climate. It really comes down to this one word. And, taking a look around the world, from the rising temperatures that have pushed countries like Holland to replace oil rigs with windmills along the coastline to cities like London which has traffic congestion pricing in the city center to cities like Frankfurt that have banned diesel vehicles from its inner-city, everyone is getting serious about air pollution and its greater impact on our climate.
Electric cars will flood the European market en masse soon; most car makers expect to have electrics and plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) cars to be a significant portion of their lineups by 2025. But the show had more than that to show off: fuel cell cars (essentially an electric car fueled by self-sufficient emissions-free hydrogen rather than electricity!) to the travel pod/car that operates autonomously when you want and lets you drive when you need to, the concepts and early-stage development that light the path to the future.
Here are the future cars on trend that you’ll see in North America soon, too…and perhaps even in your driveway!
13 Future Trends That Were Center Stage at the Frankfurt Motor Show
1. Volkswagen’s Move to Electric: The ID.3 and Its Yet-to-Be-Named North American Cousin
VW is all about making amends and forging the road to the future. Still stinging from the diesel emissions scandal, the company is focused on earning the respect of customers and colleagues by leading the way— and putting all its bets on—sustainable electric vehicles. On the heels of the ID Buzz, which harkens to the always popular VW Bus and is intended for commercial use, and the ID Buggy, their electric concept version (so, not for sale) of the dune buggy, the company is finally bringing an all-electric car to market— in Europe. A version is slated for North American and will be revealed in 2020. If the American version is anything like the European model, it’ll have a reimagined, innovative and tech-filled cabin packaged in a design that is cute-as-a-button adorable. And, the new model kicked off VW’s new logo, a slimmed-down modern version of the familiar logo that sets the stage for the new era of VW. We approve.
2. Mercedes-Benz Electrifies Its Lineup with EQC
The iconic German car company has been working on bringing its full line of sedans and SUVs into the electric age. Under the EQ umbrella, the company had the full lineup on display. But the EQC holds a special honor: this fully electric SUV just coming onto the market and can be purchased in North America. We were able to take a few shuttle rides in the EQC and appreciate how fully Mercedes-Benz this car is: That magical infotainment system, the luxury of leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, higher ground clearance and all-wheel drive in this SUV make the EQC a true contender. It doesn’t ask its owners to compromise anything in order to make the switch to electric driving.
Related: Can’t wait for the EQC to make it to your dealer? Check out the Mercedes Benz GLE the luxury SUV you can have right now
3. Ford Gets Serious with an Explorer Plug-In Hybrid
This was a bit of a surprise since we typically see smaller city-sized cars at European auto shows. But Ford is taking the muscle and popularity of the #1 SUV in the United States to Europe and adapting it for the electric trend. The plug-in hybrid Explorer will likely make the move to the US soon (and not soon enough!) and won’t just be more efficient, but it’ll produce more than 300 horsepower and 20 miles of pure electric driving. We are all for having that extra range; 20 miles may not seem all that much until you’re running late, you need gas and you have enough charge to get you, the kids and the dog where you all need to go.
4. Audi Expands its Electric Commitment by Expanding e-tron
This all-electric SUV was introduced last year and that was just the start; Audi has been hard at work extending the e-tron technology into its lineup. Frankfurt Auto Show attendees got a glimpse at the e-tron Sportback sedan that is expected to make its way to the marketplace shortly, and they got to view the full line up of concept cars that are not just electric, but also, autonomous.
From the AI: Track, a fully race-track capable sports car to the AI: Trail, an autonomous off-road vehicle that can climb mountains and take you where the road can’t, on its own or under your own control, Audi offered a solid look at the not-to-distant future.
5. Capability Matters, and Land Rover Brings Back the Defender
This super-capable SUV finally made its much-anticipated return to the market with a new less-rugged look and feel. This is the country car that Queen Elizabeth drives and the new model still puts capability front and center.
There are two model choices—a two-door and a four-door model; the two-door model seats 5 or 6 with a fold-up center console that allows three to sit across the front seat; the four-door model seats up to seven with an optional third row. There are lots (and lots!) of places to plug in a phone or household appliance, there are lots of storage spaces; the new 2020 model kept the skylight-like transom windows along the ceiling and Land Rover boasts this car can conquer mountains.
Its design, however, is less the original classic and more like modern Land Rovers of late, with more sheet metal and composite materials comprising its major parts, and less chrome and lights defining this SUV’s face.
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And now, my favorite of #iaa19 . . . The #hondae . . . Yes, a full #ev (sadly, only 136 miles of range according to Brussels) but that’s not what sets it apart in a crowded field of #electriccars here @ #frankfurtautoshow. It’s the #design stupid . . . Well, that & the tactile feel. The folks @ #honda resisted the temptation to put in oversized screens and force the driver to interact with the machine though highly unsafe at any speed haptic feedback & heat sensitive touch points. Instead, they use the screens to display relevant information when you need it through knobs & toggle switches. Yes, there’s even an old school volume knob. Then, there are street legal cameras as rear view mirrors which are prominently placed at the right angle high in the dash – cough, #audi #etron. Now, gonna let a little #design #nerd fall out . . . The materials on the inside are better than most #mercedes & #bmw we drive . . . This thing is a rockstar even without the fold up #motorcycle in the trunk . . . Too bad it ain’t comin’ #stateside . . . . . . #iaafrankfurt
6. Honda e (We Fell Just a Little In Love With this Cutie)
We love this little guy and hope it makes it to the US. An all-electric city car, it has an almost animated look to it: its shape is square but its rounded lights give it an intelligent, human look. Inside the Honda e is streamlined and elegant, with wool upholstery, satinwood trim and an open cabin that is filled with places to plug in your technology.
7. Serious Style is Still A Thing: BMW 4 Concept
This might be the most beautiful car of the show, an elegant and flowing concept that spies tell us is in the final stages of being prepared for the sale. Notably, the concept car has a shiny black oversized geometric front grille, giving it almost a raptor-like maw. But the elegant sweeping lines of the hood, roof, and tail make up for the controversy of the 4 Concept’s face. And the deep, glossy red paint, so deep and so translucent you could practically see into its soul, kept you from being able to look away. We hope the paint makes it to the final product, which we can’t wait to see.
8. Cute and Electric Doesn’t Have to Be Boring: Mini Cooper SE
Anyone who can’t wrap their minds around an electric car because, well, they love the drive feel of a gas engine will be delighted by the Mini Cooper SE. This “street legal go-kart” promises all you love about driving a super fun sports car and all the benefits of electric driving.
9. Electric Cars Can Hair-Blowing and Toe-Curling. At the Same Time: Porsche Taycan
We got an exclusive early look at the Taycan, which was the big story of the Frankfurt Motor Show. This super-luxe sports car is set to shame the rest of the industry with its innovative design and approach to not just an electric sports car, but one that can set records and win races. The race is on.
10. Electric is Just the First Step: BMW Fuel Cell Concept
We have seen fuel cell cars slowly tricking onto the market over the last few years, and BMW is the latest to bring theirs, an SUV no less, to the show as a concept. What this means is they are in serious development and want you to get use to the idea. And, you should. This is the technology of the future.
11. Living Room Car Cabins Are Closer to Being a Thing: Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Audi Are On It
This is something that auto futurists have been predicting for a while and frankly, we are excited: A car cabin that, when the car is able to drive itself, lets you turn your chair around and chat with everyone else in the car. Or that exchanges the steering wheel for a desk so you can pull out your laptop and get some work done while you commute. Imagine, you can make several hour drives to work and be productive while you do it. It’s like communing by train except without the inconvenient schedules, obnoxious strangers and *interesting* smells.
12. Hello Hot Tech: Side View Cameras Replacing Side View Mirrors
We saw more than a few of these, most notably on the Honda e and Audi e-tron. It’s been speculated for a while that side view mirrors will go the way of the telephone booth, set to be replaced by cameras and side-view displays. As soon as US regulation catches up, expect these to become the standard.
13. Have Your Cake and Live With it Too: Batteries Store Under the Floorboards
Commonly called a ‘roller skate’ design, designers across the industry have decided that assembling a car’s lithium-ion batteries along the floor of the car is the way to store them. And it’s a neat idea; they don’t take up passenger or cargo space, they give most cars and SUVs a bit more lift off the ground and they are accessible for repair or replacement. Most brands are showing this design and we like it; when an industry attains a general agreement about standards that means mass introduction for consumers isn’t too far behind.
Which of These Trends Will Be With Us for the Long Run?
Just because these car trends are hot doesn’t mean they will all see success on our streets. To boil it down for us, the World Car Awards, an organization of 86 automotive journalists from around the world (including this very humbled writer) will vote on the best of the best and crown 5 lucky winners the best of 2020 (you can see the 2019 list here). The voting starts now with this list of contenders; the finalists will be announced in April at the New York Auto Show.
And that is also where we’ll see these trends starting take root in our lives. Hold on, ladies. The future is electric and it’ll be here sooner than you think!