In a couple of days we ring in the new year. “Twenty twenty” heralds not only the arrival of a new year, but also the beginning of a new decade – and for the global automakers it promises to be a challenging 10 years ahead. The powers-to-be at all the automakers will be facing in the ’20s the daunting and costly task of meeting the challenges of electrification, connectivity and autonomy. A lot of money will be spent and there is no guarantee that all the decisions will be the correct ones for achieving success. A board member of a major automaker has to be doing a lot of squirming in their seats as decisions for future product are debated and voted on.
So there will be lots of automotive stories to observe and write about. However, this being the last column of 2019, it is a tradition of mine to reflect on the past year and review some of the highlights that I found compelling and worthy of discussion. Last year I was all gushy about the incredible success of Japanese automaker Subaru. Like the Energizer Bunny, year after year the relatively small automaker (but getting bigger all the time) continued to increase sales each and every year since 2008. A has-been, also ran boutique brand Subaru for the decades of the 1970s and ’80s, Subaru appears to now be heading for the big time and sales this year will undoubtedly pass the 700,000 mark. That’s a very big improvement over the average sales totals around 150,000-175,000 annually only a couple of decades back. Happily for CEO Thomas Doll, Subaru of America’s sales numbers continued to grow in 2019 and the automaker with the quirky and different, flat Boxer engines is heading for a million unit year in the not too distant future if sales continue to rise. Subaru did great in 2018 and it had another newsworthy year in 2019.