As 2015 draws to a close, let's take a look at some of the news that made waves in the automotive world this year for both good and not-so-good reasons. There have been plenty of noteworthy vehicles hitting showrooms for bank accounts of all sizes, and technologies to emerge that are bound to weave themselves into our lives in the not-too-distant future. And we even witnessed a good old-fashioned scandal come to light that really shook up one particular German car manufacturer.
One thing is certain, the auto industry is thriving, and the influence tech has on it is at an all-time high. Expect another prime year ahead filled with even more innovations and exciting new products.
Autonomous vehicles rising
The days of self-driving cars clogging roadways continues to edge closer with numerous car makers, suppliers and even technology companies working toward putting more of them into service. Companies like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Delphi have all demonstrated their capabilities in this space, as well as tech giant Google with its own self-driving car project. At the beginning of the year, Audi sent a self-driving car from San Francisco to Las Vegas, then Delphi followed up with a cross-country, mostly autonomous drive. The question no longer appears to be if autonomous cars will ever dominate the roads, but when.
Volkswagen Dieselgate debacle
This fall Volkswagen admitted to installing "defeat devices" in approximately 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. The software could detect laboratory test conditions and lower emissions levels to acceptable limits, but on road they would pollute more than legally allowed. Faced with heavy fines and plummeting sales, Volkswagen has introduced a Goodwill Package to smooth things over a little with owners as it works to develop a fix for the affected vehicles.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto invade car interiors
For most people, it's difficult to imagine life without smartphones since they are used daily for everything from conducting business to looking up restaurant ratings. Fitting that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bring the smartphone experience into cars providing users a familiar infotainment interface in hopes of cutting down on distracted driving. Availability is rapidly spreading throughout the auto industry, and is becoming an important feature that more consumers are seeking out.
Car sales humming at record pace
Want proof that the auto industry is in good shape? Look no further than the sales figures, which analysts expect to exceed 17 million units for the year, and will more than likely better the 17.4 million vehicle record set way back in 2000. Pent-up demand, high consumer confidence, falling gas prices and low interest rates have all helped matters. And the good news keeps coming as many forecasts expect the sales momentum to continue into 2016, which could turn out to be an even better year than 2015.
Midengine supercar throwdown
The year started out with the debut of two midengine supercars at the North American International Auto show in Detroit. Acura showed the production version of the 2017 NSX with a 573-horsepower, twin-turbocharged hybrid V6. But it was Ford that sent shockwaves through the exhibit hall when it uncovered a new GT, also powered by a twin-turbo V6 expected to make north of 600 horsepower. The company somehow kept the GT a secret until the press conference. Pitting the two head to head on the track definitely needs to be done.
A new chapter in the pony car wars begins
Does anyone ever get tired of a good rivalry? Not if it's as competitive as the one between the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. A new sixth-generation Camaro rolled into showrooms in fall following a weight loss regimen that had it move onto a new platform with lighter suspension components. According to Chevrolet, the new car dropped more than 200 pounds. This while the Mustang, which was new itself for 2015, saw the arrival a track-focused Shelby GT350 model that we assume will have to contend with a new Camaro Z/28 before long.