2014 Market Trends
Model year 2014 is poised to be an exciting year for the automotive industry. The market experienced a strong rebound in new vehicle sales in 2013, and it appears that this positive momentum will continue in 2014. The U.S. economy is gradually improving, and rising auto sales are a contributing factor to continued improvement. Edmunds.com predicts that the auto industry is on pace to sell 16.4 million new cars this year, the most since 2006.
Manufacturers are seeking to capitalize on the market upswing as they offer greater fuel economy along with plenty of new technological features. Automakers are having to innovate in order to meet rapidly increasing fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and the 2014 vehicle market indicates that these standards will help shape the design of motor vehicles in the years to come.
More Efficient Conventional Vehicles
While electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have dominated the auto news in the past few years, conventional internal combustion engine vehicles are changing as well. The Ford Fiesta SFE, with a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine, achieves an EPA-rated 45 miles per gallon on the highway and 32 mpg in the city, making it an energy-efficient conventional vehicle option. More broadly, downsized engines using turbocharging, direct injection, and other technologies are boosting fuel economy without sacrificing power or performance. Toyota is expected to introduce a new line of turbocharged engines in the coming years, the first set of turbo engines that they have produced since experimenting with the technology more than 30 years ago. Back then, Toyota turned to turbocharging to boost output from an already powerful engine. Now they will use turbo to increase the power of much smaller, more fuel-efficient engines.
Another fuel-saving technology making its debut in conventional vehicles in the U.S. in recent years is the stop-start system. Previously used only in hybrids, first generation stop-start systems turn off the engine after a vehicle comes to a complete stop, and restart the engine when the driver releases the brake or steps on the accelerator. This fuel-conserving technology saves the fuel that is normally wasted while a vehicle is idling. Now newer stop-start systems, can shut the engine off when the vehicle is coasting at high speeds. This means that you can now coast without using the engine and without wasting any fuel. Stop-start system manufacturer Bosch estimates a fuel savings of 10% for the technology. Ford used stop-start technology in the 2013 Fusion and is expected to expand its use into larger, more fuel-intensive vehicles such as the F-150 from 2014 onwards.
A number of other changes are being made to gasoline-operated vehicles. As better technology is created, traditional components of the internal combustion engine are quickly becoming obsolete. Fan belts, part of the internal combustion engine for nearly 100 years, are being replaced by electric motors that draw energy only when needed, unlike belt-driven systems that draw energy constantly. Three 2014 year models have no belts at all: the Toyota Prius, the Ford C-Max Hybrid, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
More automakers are also jumping on the clean diesel bandwagon. While diesel sales in the United States have been dominated by European manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Audi, a number of domestic automakers started adding clean diesels to their vehicle lineups. The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, rated 46 mpg highway and 27 mpg city, will be the first diesel passenger car from General Motors since 1986. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is another diesel passenger vehicle option for consumers this year.
More Plug-In Vehicles
Several automakers have launched plug-in vehicles – both plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and all-electrics for model year 2014. All in all, 15 different plug-in models are set to hit the market this year
Chevrolet made history in 2011 by releasing the first PHEV to be sold in the U.S. This year, Chevrolet is releasing its first all-electric with the launch of the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV. Also new on the market this year is the 2014 Fiat 500e. BMW and Mercedes-Benz will compete with Tesla’s Model S in the larger size all-electric category for the first time in 2014. BMW is releasing the all-new 2014 i3, and Mercedes-Benz is also putting their first all-electric on the market with the 2014 B-class EV. Both are expected in showrooms in the summer of 2014.
The 2014 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, starting at $12,500, is an economical all-electric option that is perfect for consumers living in congested cities. The Chevrolet Volt PHEV, perennially criticized for being too expensive, is $5,000 cheaper in 2014.
The PHEV market in the U.S. is likewise poised to expand in 2014. The 2014 Chevrolet Volt, 2014 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid, 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will create a more diverse PHEV market this year. The Honda Accord’s ninth generation includes a new PHEV version of the popular vehicle in addition to the gasoline and conventional hybrid editions.
Greener Choices for Everyone
When it comes to buying a new vehicle, the most environmentally friendly step you can take is simple: first evaluate your needs and your budget, then look for the models with the greenest scores among the cars and trucks that meet your requirements. Even though some of our top ratings go to alternative fuel vehicles, every class features nationally available gasoline-powered vehicles that score significantly better than average.
Our Greener Choices table highlights top-scoring vehicles available to everyone in almost all major market segments. The list includes only automatics, although many manual transmission versions have higher fuel economy and might be good choices for some buyers. The good news is that you can find cleaner and more efficient vehicles throughout the market. Besides looking at the models in this table, use our Best Vehicles by Class lists and the greenercars.org database to find other vehicles in your preferred class size that also score well.
Buying green does more than fulfill your own personal commitment to protect the environment. Naturally each greener choice by an individual consumer reduces pollution directly. But the market is also a give-and-take between consumers and manufacturers. As more and more consumers buy green, automakers will increasingly view environmentally friendly design as an opportunity rather than an obligation. Then they will be motivated to invest even more in improved technology, and even more green cars and trucks will be available in the years ahead.
Finally, keep in mind that the average car or light truck is likely to keep running for a dozen or more years. Even if you don’t keep your new vehicle for more than a few of those years, the choice you make now will expand the options available to used car buyers in the future. So instead of putting yet another gas guzzler on the streets, the greener choice you make today can help cut pollution for years to come.
Best Vehicles by Class
Greenest Vehicles of 2014
Meanest Vehicles for the Environment
The Year's Market Trends