Cellphones will replace key fobs as the way to unlock car doors. Ten percent of U.S. auto sales will be pure electric. Chinese automakers will buy rivals across the world. Some niche automakers will vanish.
Those were a few of the experts' forecasts for the auto industry's next decade, as assembled by abcnews.com. Disruption could be the hallmark of the 2020s, the story said.
But exactly how it will play out is anyone's guess.
As we put a bow on the 2010s, it's worth considering how many of these developments could have been predicted as the industry emerged from the Great Recession a decade ago.
- Then, automakers were gearing up to build small cars, profitably, amid forecasts of a permanent shift away from big trucks. In 2009, passenger cars accounted for 55 percent of U.S. auto sales. Now, they claim just 28 percent.
- Toyota began the decade in an existential crisis over unintended acceleration. Other global powers would go through their own trials: General Motors and ignition switches, Volkswagen and diesel emissions. Another, Takata, was sunk by its faulty airbag inflators.
- Fifteen million was viewed as a sustainable level for annual U.S. auto sales, once automakers pulled themselves out of the recession ditch. Barring a surprise December plunge (final numbers will be out Monday, Jan. 6), the industry will have closed out the 2010s with five straight years above 17 million.
- Today, automakers and their suppliers and tech companies are earmarking untold billions of dollars to develop autonomous cars. In 2009, no one was thinking about them, at least according to the pages of Automotive News. A search of all the stories published that year found zero references to "driverless" or "self-driving" or "autonomous" vehicles.
- One might have thought that the UAW, which had benefited more than other stakeholders in the government rescues of Chrysler and GM, would have forged a culture of humility and gratitude. Instead, eight union officials have been convicted on federal corruption charges, and its president resigned after being implicated in the scandal.
- Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler, which owes its existence to the bailout, agreed to pay $40 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission after being caught jacking up the numbers to keep a phony sales streak alive.
And that's just some of the unpredictable. We've also witnessed the unfathomable: Carlos Ghosn fleeing Japan as he awaits trial while Nissan, the company he once saved, is in shambles.
Good forecasting matters. As the legendary GM research boss Charles Kettering once put it: "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."
But the past decade has shown that crystal balls can fog up in a hurry. And when they do, it helps to be able to turn on a dime.