Automakers will unveil a host of new crossovers, SUVs and trucks at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show this week in another demonstration of the popularity of large vehicles.
The vehicle most expected to make a splash is the highly anticipated 2020 Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup truck.
Based off the four-door Jeep Wrangler JL, the Gladiator gives parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles an instant player in the burgeoning compact pickup segment.
“Look at how many people are buying Jeeps and combine that with Americans’ love of pickup trucks, and that vehicle can’t fail,” said Ed Kim, an analyst with AutoPacific, an industry consulting firm. “It’s a very unique product that’s going to resonate with a lot of people.”
Other notable debuts will include the adventure-focused Honda Passport SUV and the all-new Hyundai Palisade three-row crossover. Luxury SUVs take the shape of the Mercedes-Maybach GLS, the posh Lexus LX Inspiration and the revived Lincoln Aviator. Popular crossovers like the Nissan Murano and Mazda CX-5 will take center stage with refreshed looks and features.
Fuel efficiency is also on display. Subaru will unveil a plug-in hybrid version of its Crosstrek crossover. All-electric vehicles include a pickup truck from Michigan-based Rivian Automotive, a mystery model from Chinese startup Byton and the North American debut of the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo.
Once a platform for the introduction of fuel-efficient and green-technology vehicles, the Los Angeles event has become a popular stage for debuting new light trucks, a category that includes crossovers, SUVs and pickups.
Light trucks are in high demand from U.S. customers. The growth of those vehicles has allowed automakers to introduce new models that fill once-niche segments.
“You’re getting a wide variety of truck products because they make up such a majority of sales in the marketplace,” Kim said.
Smaller cars will also be on display. The Mazda3, Porsche 911 and electric Audi E-Tron GT are expected to raise eyebrows.
But the vast majority of new vehicles will be crossovers and large trucks.
The Jeep Gladiator will compete with a growing list of midsize trucks that includes the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Ranger. The Honda Passport aims to capitalize on growing demand for off-road capability. The three-row Lincoln Aviator will offer a plug-in hybrid version and fight for sales in the large luxury crossover segment.
“It reflects the importance of having a very full line of SUV products in any automaker’s portfolio,” Kim said. “Especially the ones that have been light in that area.”
SUVs Not Slowing Down
Through the first 10 months of 2018, U.S. sales of light trucks have increased by 8.3 percent compared with the same period last year. Sales of small cars and sedans fell by 13.3 percent during the same period.
Light trucks account for 67.7 percent of all U.S. sales so far in 2018, up from 63 percent during the same time period a year earlier.
Automakers with wider variety of light trucks in their lineups are finding more sales success than their sedan-heavy counterparts. Land Rover sales have increased 22 percent, and Jeep is up 19 percent so far in 2018 compared with last year. Crossover-focused Mitsubishi has seen a 17 percent jump this year.
Subaru introduced the three-row Ascent SUV at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show. Its sales led to a 21 percent increase in the brand’s light-truck sales this year.
Meanwhile, sales for the Genesis brand are down 45 percent as the company rushes to introduce its first SUV models.
What to Expect
Here are some of the new vehicles to watch at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show:
- Jeep Gladiator: The all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup truck will be available in four-door crew cab configurations, likely powered by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Available engines could include a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder, a hybrid and a turbodiesel.
- Honda Passport: Honda will revive the Passport nameplate with an all-new SUV to slot between the midsize CR-V and large Pilot. The new vehicle will be more capable of going off-road. Production will be located in the U.S. The Passport will be available at dealerships in early 2019.
- Lincoln Aviator: Another revived nameplate, the Aviator will be a three-row luxury SUV designed to give struggling Lincoln a boost. The automaker showed an Aviator concept at the 2018 New York International Auto Show and confirmed the production model will be powered by a twin-turbocharged engine. The Aviator will debut a new platform with standard rear-wheel drive and optional all-wheel drive that will also underpin the upcoming 2020 Ford Explorer.
- Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo: Debuting at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany, in September, the fully electric Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo will make its North American debut in Los Angeles. Based on the I.D. Buzz passenger van, the commercial van can be ordered with a variety of battery packs for range and hauling. It will go on sale in North America by 2022.
- BMW Vision iNext Concept: This futuristic vehicle previews a production version that BMW says will be available in 2021. The Vision iNext features automated driving assistance and an all-electric powertrain. It represents the German brand’s idea of what a connected SUV, or Sports Activity Vehicle, as BMW calls it, will look like in the future.
There will also be updated versions of existing light trucks. Nissan is expected to unveil a new Murano midsize crossover and Mazda to introduce a new turbocharged 2.5-liter engine for its CX-5.
The L.A. Auto Show will open to the public on Friday, Nov. 30, and close on Sunday, Dec. 9.