How Cars Are Changing Faster Than We Realize!

I was talking with my neighbor this week about the features she likes in her new Cross-over Utility Vehicle. Backup Camera, Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Monitoring made her driving so much easier.

Looking over in my driveway, there sits my seven-year old sedan, built in the days before Collision Warning and Mitigation systems, before Lane Departure Warnings or Lane Keep Assistance, pre-Blind-Spot Monitoring and Cross-Traffic Alert.   No backup Camera. Not even Blue-Tooth phone connectivity. My neighbor smiled and said “It looks very nice.”

There is really nothing wrong with my car mechanically – I can get from point A to Point B in reasonable time. It has good gas mileage, has a decent sound system that can read my custom made CDs filled with folders of MP3s, and according to the diagram in the owner’s manual, if, heaven forbid, I get in an accident, the airbag system will surround me on all sides like a moon bounce.

Nevertheless, when I go to work as a Product Specialist for a luxury car dealership, and drive cars our new cars to show the features to customers, I am in another world of driving euphoria, if only for short bursts of time.

Back in the days when I worked in the computer industry, hardware and software would change rapidly. New, faster processors would come out almost as fast as it took to boot up a computer. As soon as you learned how an operating system worked, a new one would be announced and people would line up overnight at retailers to get it.

I’ve been observing and studying cars for about 38 years, and have seen changes over time. It was common for a vehicle design to remain for four to six years or beyond, with a few necessary changes here or there, barely noticeable unless you were looking. In the past five years – especially in the past three – I’ve observed a drastic amount of changes in new cars that even surpass the computer industry.

In the early 1980’s, American car makers were working hard to make their comfortable autos more fuel efficient, while the Japanese auto makers were making their fuel efficient cars more comfortable. In the 1990’s we saw some bizarre shapes and wild ideas that were desperate attempts to get the attention of car buyers. In the 2000’s we saw American car companies realizing they have to build quality cars, like our overseas competitors, to gain back market share. Asian and European car builders were designing products specifically for an American market, and American car makers were building cars for the demands of emerging European and Asian Markets.

In the past five years or more, There has been an incredible amount of features introduced into new autos – some for comfort and convenience, some for safety. These features started in the high-end, expensive luxury cars, or in the top trim levels of the family cars and SUVs, and eventually, work their way down as options to lower trim and base levels, and eventually become standard, because “you can’t put a price on safety.”

Here is just one sign of how the auto industry is changing in a fast and competitive way –

The mid-size family sedan, a segment being surpassed by the SUV category, is seeing more new model changes at the same time that I can remember– not just minor dress-up changes, but major overhauls. For the 2018 model year, you will see brand new models of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and we have been hearing talk about a change to the Volkswagen Passat. In 2017, we saw overhauls of the Mazda 6, Buick Lacrosse and a refresh of the Ford Fusion.

If you look at these vehicles, they will all come with a long list of standard features we come to expect in today’s vehicles. Take a look at the designs, then close your eyes and think back in time 20-30 years, and based on their design and new functionality, you will may view these as luxury vehicles.

So where does that leave vehicles like my seven-year old nice looking sedan? Will the pre-owned car market be flooded with “outdated” trade-ins from people who want what today’s cars have to offer?  We have seen cars with design changes cycle their way into the market and cycle out older vehicles over a steady period of time. However, we have never seen a rapid change such as this.

Only time will tell what the mainstream of new and used cars will look like – but with these many changes, how much time will that be?

Will Schirmer’s passion and knowledge of cars extends almost 40 years. Will has been certified with three car manufacturers, and is currently a Certified Product Specialist at Sussman Acura in Jenkintown, PA. Contact Will at will@willschirmer.com