Top 10 Most Significant New Vehicles for 2008

Top 10 Most Significant New Vehicles for 2008

Big changes are coming for the auto industry, and the most significant new vehicles “” from the Cadillac CTS to the Nissan GT-R “” seem ready to deliver on all the hopes that are riding on their success.

Heading into 2008, American luxury carmakers are poised for a comeback, strides are being made in alternative fuels and safety, and the “bigger is better” mantra from U.S. consumers is starting to show signs of fading.

Click through to see the list of the Top 10 Most Significant New Vehicles for 2008.

Top 10 Most Significant New Vehicles for 2008:

10. Cadillac Escalade Hybrid/Chevy Tahoe Hybrid/GMC Yukon Hybrid
9. Infiniti EX35
8. Jaguar XF
7. Lincoln MKS
6. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
5. Nissan GT-R
4. Smart ForTwo
3. Audi R8
2. BMW 1-Series
1. Cadillac CTS

Related Stories:

Driving Porsche”s Super Car
Higher Fuel Economy Without Compromises
Audi Finesse”s a Fine Machine
Highest Level of Class

Top 10 Most Significant New Vehicles for 2008 Gallery:

Cadillac Escalade Hybrid   2008 Jaguar XF  2009 Lincoln MKS  2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Nissan GT-R Smart ForTwo USA  2008 Audi R8  2008 BMW 1-Series Coupe  

View Slideshow

 

America’s Next Top Models

With the help of industry experts, we highlight the ten most significant new luxury vehicles for 2008.

by Jim Gorzelany

Big changes are coming for the auto industry, and the most significant new vehicles “” from the Cadillac CTS to the Nissan GT-R “” seem ready to deliver on all the hopes that are riding on their success.

Heading into 2008, American luxury carmakers are poised for a comeback, strides are being made in alternative fuels and safety, and the “bigger is better” mantra from U.S. consumers is starting to show signs of fading.

Next year will be an especially critical year for the domestic automakers, says David Wurster, president of the market research firm Vincentric in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “All will be coming off a difficult sales year but with renewed optimism as a result of favorable UAW negotiations,” he says. “Stabilizing their dwindling market share is critical, so any new products that will significantly help to “˜move the needle” are important.”

One domestic model that”s particularly vital to this initiative “” and earns a spot on our list of the 10 most significant vehicles for 2008 “” is the Cadillac CTS luxury sedan. It gets a major makeover for the 2008 model year, and Wurster expects it to account for at least 20 percent of Cadillac”s total sales. He calls it “a striking vehicle,” and credits the original version with helping to rebuild Cadillac”s image and bolster its sales.

John Wolkonowicz, a senior market analyst for research firm Global Insight in Boston, Mass., feels that the new CTS has finally achieved class-leading status. “It has world-class quality, a world-class design, and can hold its own with the competition from Mercedes and BMW “” when you can do that, you”re world class,” he says.

Another luxury sedan in a pivotal role is Jaguar”s new XF. Francois Gravigny, an advisor for R.L. Polk & Company, calls it a “make-or-break model” for the struggling British automaker owned by Ford, and now on the auction block.

After decades of making cars with throwback styling, Jaguar is leaping forward with the progressive and sporty XF in hopes of luring younger buyers into showrooms. Wolkonowicz feels it”s the right car for Jaguar, but wonders if the brand has already been damaged beyond repair. “Ford turned Jaguar into an old man”s car,” he says. “This is a model they should have done 15 years ago.”

One of the most eagerly awaited new vehicles is the BMW 1 Series. It”s essentially a smaller and less expensive “” but no less capable “” version of the venerable 3 Series. “The BMW 1 Series is spot-on “” this one”s a winner,” Wolkonowicz says. “They did an absolutely perfect job with that car “” it goes like hell, looks great, is very distinctive and has great proportions.”

The 1 Series fills a void left by the 3 Series as it perpetually grew in size and price. R.L. Polk”s Gravigny says that BMW may have turned off potential buyers in recent years by pushing the 3 Series up market, which makes the 1 Series “a smart way for BMW to capture a younger audience.”

Automakers will increasingly focus efforts on young drivers, who will wield considerable buying power in coming years. “The big change in the marketplace is going to be the full emergence of Generation Y,” Wolkonowicz says. “You”ll see some significant market shifts over the next 10 or 15 years caused simply by Gen-Y buyers replacing the Baby Boomers as the most important generation in the car market.” He cites BMW”s 1 Series and the new Volvo C30 as prime examples of the sort of upscale rides younger motorists will aspire to own. “They like premium-type cars and like to make big statements,” he says.

But the smallest car on our list, the diminutive Smart ForTwo, got mixed reviews from analysts. “This car not only hits an obvious market need for fuel-efficient vehicles, but it breaks new ground as a mass-produced commuter vehicle, and it does so with a lot of style,” Vincentric”s Wurster says.

On the other hand, Gravigny, of R.L. Polk, is skeptical of the brand”s viability in the U.S. “In Europe it took several years for buyers to get used to the look of it, and I don”t think it will do at all well here except perhaps in urban areas like Los Angeles or New York City,” he says. “It”s small and distinctive looking but doesn”t have the fun-to-drive factor of the Mini Cooper.”

At the other end of the size spectrum, large sport utility vehicles and trucks will cross an important threshold in 2008. General Motors leads the fray in adding so-called “two-mode” hybrid technology, which allows electric-only propulsion, to its big SUVs. Regardless of how popular the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, and GMC Yukon Hybrid prove to be, they”re significant for what they say about the future of hybrid technology. The fact that GM, and soon others, including Chrysler and Porsche, are making significant investments to incorporate two-mode hybrid powertrains in large SUVs illustrates how innovation and market forces can create unexpected solutions.

But at least one analyst is skeptical of large hybrid SUVs. Lonnie Miller, R.L. Polk”s director of industry analysis, considers them to be rolling oxymorons. “It”s like ordering a Big Mac and a Diet Coke “” you need the big truck, but feel better about buying one because you got a hybrid,” he says.

Experts agreed that fuel costs, combined with looming changes to federally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, will profoundly affect the kinds of cars and trucks we”ll be driving in 2008 and beyond. “We”ll be seeing more interest in smaller and more efficient cars, alternative-fuel cars, diesels, hybrids, and electrics,” Wurster says. “All of this will be mixed into the marketplace and give consumers a wider choice of vehicles than ever.”

About Our List

ForbesAutos focuses on luxury and high-interest vehicles. The list of Top 10 Most Significant Luxury Vehicles of 2008 was compiled based on feedback and research from industry analysts as well as cumulative reporting and test drives by ForbesAutos editors. Each vehicle on the list was chosen for its potential impact on the market and its brand, with the understanding that vehicles that flop can have as big an impact as those that succeed.

[tags]Cars, Car, Auto, Automobile, Vehicles, Technology, Auto News, News, Automotive, Cadillac, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Jaguar[/tags]