10 years is a long time and in that timeframe, the automotive industry witnessed a very important paradigm shift in more ways than one. Whether its safety recalls, emission cheating to driverless cars, here are the most shocking news and scandals and the biggest trends we saw in the world of automobiles.
Takata Airbag Recall
The biggest recall in the history of the automobile. Takata, a Japanese company that specialises in safety systems for cars found itself in one of the biggest safety tech scandal the world had ever seen. Takata was a supplier of airbags to nearly every automaker around the world. But in 2013, it was discovered that a small part in the system which could malfunction and deploy the airbag without warning or trigger, sending deadly shrapnel into the driver’s face. A number of fatalities and injuries were reported which were caused by the malfunctioning vehicle safety component. The shocking revelation was that while Takata was aware of the malfunctioning part, it took little to no action, and kept supplying faulty airbags to OEMs. Following the revolution of the massive scandal, nearly all cars fitted with Takata airbags were recalled around the world. Even though the recalls started in 2003, vehicles with Takata airbags still roam the street around the world. It is hard to put an exact number of vehicles that are on the list and have been or are to be recalled, but as most manufacturers have recalled close to million vehicles. Making the Takata Airbag Scandal the biggest in the history of the automobile.
Volkswagen Dieselgate Scandal
In 2014, it came to light that one of the largest automobile conglomerates, the Volkswagen Group had been falsifying its emissions. While on the surface it seemed like a small calculation mix up at first, it turned out that the manufacturer had equipped its diesel-powered vehicles across its brands with a specific software which is commonly called a ‘Defeat Device’ that could sense if the vehicle was being tested and tailor its emissions accordingly to meet the required levels, but in real-world use, the car would be emitting far more NOx than the prescribed limit. While the scandal was first noticed in the US, the company and its executives were brought under a microscopic scanner. Some claim that over 11 million Audi, Porsche, VW, Skoda, Seat vehicles are being recalled globally and the manufacturer agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties as six Volkswagen executives were charged. Following the scandal, VW Group announced that it will plan to shift its focus towards electric mobility.
Arrival of Tesla
While in Asia, people couldn’t get enough of Gangnam Style. Elsewhere, Elon Musk showed with Tesla that a future with electric-powered cars is a real possibility. Tesla pioneered the modular skateboard architecture for EVs which helped it not only showcase the possibilities, but Tesla and Elon Musk created a cult following for themselves. People and celebrities who earlier drove hybrid and Toyota Priuses to show that they are kinder to the environment, graduated to the Tesla Model S after it was launched in 2012. But the real popularity for Tesla came in the middle of the decade. Since then, Tesla has grown its charging infrastructure, entered new markets, launched two new models (Model 3 and Model X), and has started manufacturing in China. Now, it plans to make an electric Semi-truck, a pick-up truck and an all-new Tesla Roadster that claims to outperform the fastest hypercars of modern times. Whether we will see these three new products actually deliver the claims remains to be seen.
Following the diesel gate scandal and Tesla showing that EVs can be used as daily drivers, almost every manufacturer is currently either selling, or developing an electric vehicle, or investing in companies that are developing. Nearly all of these EVs are using a variation of a skateboard architecture that is found on the Tesla Model S, You can now have a dedicated all-electric Porsche four-door electric sports car called the Taycan, there is weirdly a Ford Mustang electric crossover, Mercedes has an electric SUV, Audi has the E-Tron, BMW has the i3, there is a Jaguar i-Pace, and there are many all-electric hypercars like Rimac, Pininfarina and the list goes on. Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota everyone is bringing electric vehicles to market and setting goals to achieve 50% of sales to electric vehicles atlas by 2050. So whether we like it or we don’t, electric vehicles are here to stay, and some will pave the way to the future.
Autonomous driving is another topic the world has been debating significantly over the decade. The possibility of cars driving around the streets with no human input while seems science fiction, could become a reality, if not immediately, but in the near future, autonomous cars will become a reality. Tesla’s Autopilot and other manufacturers with their various levels of autonomous driving technology are already driving on the streets, but eventually, driver input will be a thing of the past… in the future. Uber and Volvo, and even tesla and all the manufacturers along with silicon valley tech companies are all working on developing the systems and technologies to help for an autonomously mobile future.
SUVs over others
In all that time, the world also seems to have lost every desire to buy anything but SUVs. Marketing experts decided to sell SUVs by telling people they are better because they make people look and seem bigger, stronger, and possibly wealthier. Over the last 10 years, buyers world over, have gotten it into their heads that if you don’t have an SUV, you are a nobody. Whether these SUVs are any good off-road is not a question anyone has cared to ask. Which is why you can even get an 800cc microcar which is styled to look like an SUV, which is just as capable as its lower, practical hatchback which is better to drive. The reason for why this has happened is an enigma and maybe future generations will look at this as we now look at Bell Bottoms or Cargo pants
GM Quits India
Founded in 1995, General Motors India set up not one but two plants by 2006. However, as the automotive climate shifted in India, GM failed to keep up. Older generation cars, lacking in features, expensive to run, after-sales issues led to the demand for Chevrolets to dwindle fast. While Mary Bara, visited India in 2014 and promised to invest further into the market, Gm soon made the announcement to exit the Indian market entirely by 2017. Til 2027, GM has said it will keep an inventory of spare parts and offer after-sales for its existing customers. Additionally, to keep the workforce active, General Motors continued to manufacture models from its plant in India but only cater to export markets. Currently, through a joint venture with SIAC, the plant at Halol is being used to manufacture the MG Hector, a new brand that has entered India in 2019.
Carlos Ghosn scandal
Carlos Ghosn was considered a pioneer. The man was responsible for reviving Datsun, spearheading the development of frugal engineering with Renault and Nissan. He was quickly achieved celebrity status in Japan, in fact, the Japanese even had comic books on his chronicles. But all of that was stripped off when in 2018, he was arrested for allegedly under-reporting his earnings and misuse of company assets. The company that he had led, had dismissed him as the Chairman of Nissan. He was released on bail but then was indicted on fresh charges in Japan. Some reports claimed that Ghosn under-reported his compensation and shifted more than $16 million of his personal losses towards Nissan. Ghosn claims that the allegations are false and is currently under trial.
Royal Enfield 650-Twin
A brand new parallel twin-cylinder 650cc engine debuted in 2018 with two new models. The all new continental GT and the Interceptor. Royal Enfield began selling the new 650cc engine powered models in India, Europe and US with expectations to become the best selling large capacity twin-cylinder motorcycle in the world. The introduction of the new models marked a new milestone in the brand that was born in 1901, and the revival of the ‘Interceptor’ name for Enfield from the 60s. The new engine is more refined, efficient and the bikes themselves are a joy to ride. When they were launched, all three markets have shown massive support and appreciation for the new era of RE motorcycles.
India shift from BS4-BS6
The Indian Government made the announcement that in April 2020, the Indian auto industry would skip a level of emission norms and move directly from Stage 4 to Stage 6. A first of its kind in the world, the all vehicles in India from April 1, 2020 all cars, two-wheelers and SUVs sold in India must comply with BS6 emission norms. The Indian auto industry unanimously agreed to comply and update their models and introduce new models to meet these norms.