An expert panel comprising 60 of the world's top automotive journalists were polled on their insights into the top global trends in the automotive industry, the results of which were released at a press conference in Paris today.
Jointly hosted by the World Car Awards and Prime Research, it revealed that efficiency and connectivity are, in that order, the two dominant themes for 2013, with each viewed by almost a quarter of the panel members as the most important topics.
"Engine efficiency remains the number one topic in global media coverage, but connectivity and telematics are closing in as a strong up-and-coming trend," said Dr. Rainer Mathes, president of Prime Research, which conducted the study in conjunction with the World Car Awards (WCA).
The journalists taking part in the survey are all WCA jurors, representing 25 countries in all regions of the globe.
Interest in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) ranked third in the survey, with just over 10% of the journalists ranking it highest, but, according to Prime Research's global media analysis, it is a topic of decreasing importance.
"Reporting on electric vehicles... has decreased for the first time in recent years," Mathes said. "There is not only less, but also more critical reporting than ever before."
Light-weight vehicle technology was reported to be "on the radar but still remains out of focus." It is still almost a "non-topic" in the public eye, according to Mathes.
That said, "downsizing will continue to make its impact across all segments and markets," predicted one of the journalists surveyed.
On the subject of automaker alliances – a key element in many manufacturers' strategic plans – the journalists see mutual benefits and synergies, as well as the fit of corporate cultures, as more important factors in determining their ultimate success than are economies of scale.
They identified the Renault/Nissan alliance as a clear winner and one of the most successful alliances overall while the now-defunct DaimlerChrysler merger was singled out as the most unsuccessful alliance ever.
Among current alliances, they seethe one between BMW and Toyota as the most promising, followed by the expanded Renault-Nissan-Daimler partnership. The GM-PSA alliance is the clear loser in their collective view.
Future cars and technologies
With respect to future cars and technologies, range-extended electric vehicles – exemplified by the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera – are viewed as the most promising option for electric mobility, followed by plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles.
The battery electric vehicle is seen as the least promising concept and that view is corroborated by an observed decrease in media coverage and a simultaneous increase in reporting on other electric alternatives, according to Prime.
"The challenge is backpedaling on electrics without losing face, while getting most out of the huge investments made," commented one panelist.
Japan is seen as a key driver for e-mobility, followed by Germany and the USA in that order.
As far as automakers go, the journalists expect Toyota and Renault/Nissan to be the most important players in terms of vehicle electrification, closely followed by Tesla.
Fisker and BYD are considered among the least likely to succeed in the survey.
Now in their ninth year, the annual World Car awards have become one of the world’s most prestigious, credible and significant programs of its kind, recognizing and rewarding automotive excellence on an international scale.
The 2013 World Car Award winners will be announced at the New York International Auto Show on March 28, 2013.
Prime Research International is a global leader in strategic communication research and consultancy and the WCA's research partner.