New Ram ProMaster Puts Chrysler Muscle in a Fiat Eurotruck

This combination cargo vehicle and passenger van is a welcome hybrid of American power and European design.

In the narrow, congested city block where I live, traffic gets blocked every day by some boxy truck making a delivery. Horns honk, as do drivers, and general unpleasantness ensues. Life in the big city would be so much calmer if trucks were smaller, like they are in Europe, where the streets are even narrower and more congested.

That’s now happening. As car companies globalize their products, vehicles such as Ram’s new ProMaster City are making headway, joining the likes of Ford’s Transit, Chevy’s City Express and Nissan’s NV200. The ProMaster City is a Eurotruck through and through, because it’s a Fiat Doblò that’s made in Turkey and rebadged for the U.S. market. It comes in both a passenger and cargo version, and Chrysler has a customizing operation so you can trick out the cargo version to fit your business needs.

One reason Fiat bought Chrysler is that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne realized that the two companies had offsetting strengths and weaknesses. Fiat does small really well; Chrysler is Detroit muscle all the way, and its big-ass Ram pickups are gobbling up market share.

In the ProMaster City, both companies’ strengths are brought to bear. When you build small cars and trucks as Fiat does, you think inside out — that is, using design not only to maximize interior space, but also to create visual space. Look out the ProMaster City’s windshield and you would think you are in a much bigger truck, a feeling that’s exaggerated by the short nose and narrow A pillars. At the same time, there are nooks in unexpected places — for instance, a shelf at the roofline so you don’t have to jam all kinds of stuff behind the sun visor.

Where’s the Chrysler in this thing? That’s under the hood. The ProMaster City is powered by one of Chrysler’s go-to engines, the 2.4 liter Tigershark, an inline four-cylinder number that puts out 178 h.p., tops in its class. The Tigershark also powers the Chrysler 200, the Jeep Renegade, and the Dodge Dart, and it’s attached to a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission. But even here there’s a touch of Fiat: The Tigershark uses the Italians’ MultiAir variable valve timing technology that helps to push the mileage to 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. And there’s more than ample power.

Where this corporate combination goes astray is in the dashboard, for some reason. The speedometer and information panels are not easy to see, the fog lamp is in the wrong place and the navigation system is a bit silly. The screen is iPhone-sized but with about a third of the resolution. You half expect to see Pac-Man start playing.

Still, the ride is comfortable, in part because of seating and in part because of the rear independent suspension. It’s surprisingly quiet and car-like at speeds below 60 miles per hour. It also claims a very maneuverable 32-ft. turning radius. The fold-and-tumble rear seats maintain the same comfort level, and easily convert into a vertical position in a two-latch process that maximizes the cargo space. You’ll get 131.7 cubic feet of space in the cargo version, and you can deliver nearly 1,900 lbs. of payload. The asymmetrical rear doors are designed to be opened to a full 180° for easier access.

The ProMaster City isn’t the cheapest of these Eurotrucks. Our City Wagon SLT model had a base price of $25,655, and options such as a rear window wiper, rear view camera, and some of the fancier accessories push it up a couple of thousand. But the combination of Italian styling and American power in a well-thought-out package is attractive. And maybe it will help bring a little peace and quiet to my neighborhood.


Why Apple Can’t Sell Cars Like iPhones

Apple employees prepare the newly released iPhone 6 for sale
Hannibal Hanschke—Reuters

Apple makes its money selling affordable luxury, but an Apple car would likely be luxury—period.

The Apple car! It’s Cupertino’s latest nonexistent product to drive the tech world into a frenzy. Ever since the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has “several hundred employees” working on the production of a Tesla competitor (by 2020, no less, according to Bloomberg), pundits have been fighting over the viability of an Apple-branded automobile.

On Monday, Vox’s Matt Yglesias jumped into the fray, taking on what he saw as the prevailing argument against the Apple car: namely, that the car industry is a low margin business, and Apple needs high margins to keep making its usual hefty profits. Here’s Yglesias:

The misperception here is that Apple earns high margins because Apple operates in high margin industries. The truth is precisely the opposite. Apple earns high margins because it is efficient at manufacturing and firmly committed to a business strategy of sacrificing market share to maintain pricing power.

If Apple makes a car, it will be a high margin car because Apple only makes high margin products. If it succeeds it will succeed for the same reason iPhones and iPads and Macs succeed — people like them and are willing to buy them, even though you could get similar specs for less.

That’s sort of true, but it’s not the whole picture. To understand Apple’s business model, we need to take a step back. Apple earns high profits because it goes into high-volume industries dominated by low-margin players who sell relatively affordable products. Apple then makes a premium product, one where you can’t get similar specs for less—there is no other computer or smartphone with the software or build quality of an iPhone 6 or Macbook Air—and prices its offering a few hundred dollars more than the competition. Then it earns billions off this relatively small price increase by selling high quantities of units.

In other words, Apple makes premium versions of things everybody needs at prices most people can still afford. To quote a 2010 review of the iPad, by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, ” ‘Affordable luxury’ is the sweet spot for mass market success today, and Apple keeps shooting bulls eyes.” A similar strategy for an Apple car then, would be to sell a premium-quality car with higher margins (Apple’s gross margin in 2014 was close to 40%) at a still-affordable price.

The problem for Apple is that it’s a lot easier to increase margins in a low-cost industry than a high-cost one. Even if an iPhone 6 costs 100% more than a cheap LG smartphone, it’s only $200. Same thing with the Macbook Air, which is twice the price of a low-end Windows laptop but still affordable at $1,000.

But trying to get similar margins in the automobile market means a price increase of thousands of dollars, not hundreds. Double the price of a $22,970 Toyota Camry, or ask for even a 50% premium, and you’re in BMW territory. (That company’s cheapest sedan costs $32,000.)

The typical Apple customer has enough disposable income to double their phone budget and buy an iPhone 6. Buy one fewer latte a week, and you’re pretty much there. Asking someone to double their car budget is a very different story. That’s not affordable luxury, that’s luxury—period.

This isn’t to say Apple won’t make an expensive high-margin car, just like BMW. The premium car market isn’t nearly as profitable as the cell phone market, but it’s not nothing. It’s also possible Apple will make a low-margin car while charging a slight premium over the likes of GM and Ford. The entire global automobile market in 2014 was about half the size of the iPhone market alone, meaning such an endeavor would be a lot of work for not much growth, but anything is possible.

But for Apple to do either of these things would be to abandon the affordable luxury strategy that has made it the most valuable company in the world. That’s worth thinking about when considering an Apple car’s chances.


Mini Cooper 4-Door Is a Fun Car With a Serious Price

This elongated version of the classic car is in a tug-of-war between cute little touches and a not-so-cute price tag.

Well look at you, Mini Cooper S 4-door, you’re not so mini anymore.

We have to expect that. After all, in the U.S., Mini is now a teenager, and you know what means: a growth spurt. Indeed, the Mini 4-door has added nearly more than six inches to the car’s length, in part by extending the wheelbase. This squareback has become more rectangular and with more room in the back seat. A teenager might like that.

The Mini 4-door also comes with a more grownup price. It starts at $21,700 for the base model, while the one we drove, the Mini Cooper S, weighs in at a less-than-mini $25,100.

The tags start there, but it is unlikely that any buyer could ever get away with those entry prices. The company boasts that you can get your MINI in any of eight million combinations. Eight million! As if that were a good thing.

For instance, you can choose the Cooper S sport package ($1,250), the premium package ($1,750), the media package ($750), the wired package ($1,750), the wired upgrade ($850), the loaded package ($2,250), the fully loaded ($4,500), or the flash package (a mere $400). You want rear fog lights? That’s $100. How am I supposed to know if I want rear fog lights? Apparently, no one in this company ever heard of the tyranny of choice. Why not make the most useful and popular stuff—a rear camera, say—standard and give consumers a real base price so they don’t need a spreadsheet to figure out the final cost?

Then again, that’s part of the issue with Mini, at least for me. This brand has never screamed value; it’s more about you and the unrelenting cuteness that BMW tries to impart in Mini. And it has done so brilliantly. You can personalize your Mini to the nth degree and give it a name. But this means that our test car had a sticker that neared $36,000, what with its moon roof, heated seats, and the $4,500 fully loaded package, which included everything from bonnet stripes to Xenon headlamps with cornering lights to a navigation system—but no rear camera.

At that price you are inviting competition, and there’s plenty of it. You want cute? There’s the Kia Soul, with the same hipster demeanor and a slightly lower sticker, at $21,000 all tricked out. There’s the new Fiat 500L, starting at $20,900, plus Honda’s Fit. And don’t forget the Ford Fiesta, which despite the Detroit nameplate is a true Eurohatch and starts at around $21,400. (The ST version of the Fiesta, with its 197-horsepower engine, gets admiring nods from the likes of Car and Driver, among others.) Less edgy but ever so practical is Volkswagen’s new Golf, the SE version at about $25,000 being just about everything you’d want in a Mini, but with more room and just as much vroom.

Certainly the 4-door Cooper S is a clever little devil and it may be the first color-coded car in the industry. The dash is dominated by oval designs, from the vents to the temperature controls to the giant information hub that rules the center. It’s an automotive mood ring with an 8-inch screen. The Cooper S has three driving modes—green, standard, and sport—and the ring is there to guide you, in case you’re not used to driving, I guess.

In green, or efficiency mode, the ring is of course green—unless you adjust the heat, upon which the ring goes red, white, and blue, the length of each color moving to match your temperature adjustment. If you have the nav system on—and it BMW’s clumsy version—the ring lights up in white as you approach a turn and gradually recedes around the circle as you get closer and closer to turning. Accent lighting finishes off the show: You can adjust the colors, in case you’re in a purple driving mood. Little kids are going to love this thing, and maybe drive you crazy: “Make it go orange, Mommy.” If you have difficulty distinguishing colors, alas, this isn’t your machine.

The disco dashboard has some sophisticated touches, too, including a clever adjustable steering wheel that’s integrated with the speedometer/tachometer so that the whole unit shifts; because of that, the steering wheel should never get in your sightline. At the top and bottom of the center column is a series of toggle switches, including the red on/off switch, that are reminiscent of WWII vintage aircraft. It’s a nice touch, although one toggle operates a pop-up, heads-up display that defines useless. The windshield falls away at a steep angle, giving you a wide open sensation, and the optional moonroof only adds to it. The Mini doesn’t feel as mini as it is, even in the stretched version. But it is still a Mini. Despite what the company has done to enlarge the rear seating area, including scooping out the backs of the front seats to create a knee nook, the back seats aren’t going to be anyone’s ideal of spacious,

Stretching the Mini hasn’t hurt its driving characteristics. The company still touts its go-kart steering, made possible by the car’s wide-set wheels. The basic Mini 4-door is powered by a 1.5 liter, turbo three-cylinder, 134-hp engine, which doesn’t promise to be a thrill ride. The cornering and parking ease, however, makes it a true city car. The Mini Cooper S we tested ups the ante, to a four-cylinder, twin-turboed 228-hp engine that can reach 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds. Perfectly adequate on the highway (and you’ll be well north of 30 miles per gallon). And when you switch to Sport mode, the difference in the 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,250, or $1,500 with paddle shifters) is noticeable.

It’s a fun ride in a fun car, but at a fairly serious price. Alas, the nimble steering of the Mini couldn’t help us evade a pothole on dark and rainy I-95 in Connecticut, which would reveal another benefit of the Cooper S model: runflat tires.

TIME public health

People Who Sext Are More Likely to Text While Driving

texting while driving
Getty Images

'Technological deviance' may be the reason why

More than a quarter of American adults admit to texting while driving, but not everyone is equally likely to engage in the dangerous practice, finds a new study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. People who text and drive are more likely to be white than nonwhite, men than women and sexters than the sext-abstinent.

“In modern social life, we are tethered to our devices,” says study author Steven Seiler, assistant professor of sociology at Tennessee Tech University. “When we’re driving, we’re simply taking the norms that we have in other areas of life.”

The study evaluated survey data from more than 2,200 American adults and found that more than 27% of drivers admitted to texting while driving. The practice seemed to be fueled by a sense of constant connection to others. What the authors call “technological deviance,” a disregard for social norms around technology, may help explain why sexting was an associated behavior.

Read More: How Your Cell Phone Distracts You Even When You’re Not Using It

Even though a majority of states ban texting while driving, Seiler says he is skeptical that such laws are the most effective way to stop the practice. New Jersey, a state that keeps extensive records on texting-while-driving enforcement, enacted strict laws to ban the practice more than five years ago, but hasn’t seen a decline since, Seiler says.

“When there’s laws prohibiting mobile phones, rather than keeping the mobile phones near their face, they’ll keep it in their lap,” he says. “The change has to occur on a cultural level, not simply stricter laws.”

Much like state laws, simple restrictions aren’t likely to change culture. Students who attend a school that bans mobile phones from the classroom are more likely to engage in texting while driving, Seiler says he found in an forthcoming study. “They’re catching up on that time lost,” he says. “This goes back to how integrated cell phones are with our relationships.”

To truly eradicate the practice, Seiler says the dangers of texting while driving need to be ingrained in a child early in their socialization. Parents need to monitor their children’s texting, and texting while driving should have consequences, he says.

Traffic safety campaigns should try to spread the message in every way possible, much like the seatbelt campaign of the 1990s, he says. In the United States in 2012, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents, which include talking on the phone and texting while driving.

Read more: Why People Text And Drive Even When They Know It’s Dangerous


The Dumb Thing People Do Every Winter That Gets Cars Stolen

empty parking space and snow
Riitta Supperi—Getty Images

Yes, it's cold out. And sure, no one likes getting into a freezing car. But warming it up first may not be such a hot idea.

There’s a big reason you shouldn’t start your car up in the driveway and head back inside while it warms up. Why? Doing so makes it incredibly easy for someone to steal your car. Hundreds of people around the country have been learning this hard lesson over the past couple months.

Think about how often, once the weather turns cold, people start their vehicles and leave the car unlocked with the keys in the ignition for 10 minutes or so before the morning commute. It doesn’t take a brilliant criminal mind to take advantage of this all-too-common scenario. All that thieves need to do is patrol the neighborhoods looking for cars that are running with no one behind the wheel. Before you know it, they’re driving away in someone else’s vehicle, no hotwiring or carjacking required.

Reports of cars being stolen out of driveways while warming up started surfacing around Thanksgiving in Arkansas, when nine vehicles were swiped during a two-week period. During the first few chilly weeks of 2015, dozens of such thefts have popped up in a long list of cities, including Albuquerque, Indianapolis, Boise, Wichita, Anchorage, Toronto, and even smaller towns like Hamilton, N.J. Mind you, isolated cars thefts rarely make the news; each of the above links put locals on notice that there’s been a rash of ripoffs—often a dozen, sometimes many more.

Police in Kansas City recently estimated that roughly 200 unattended vehicles with keys left inside have been stolen this winter. The thefts usually take place in residential areas curbside or in the owner’s driveway, but criminals are also known to stake out convenience stores and gas stations waiting for someone to leave a car running for a moment.

In some states—including Kansas—it’s actually illegal to have a car running with no one inside. However, local police say they can’t cite anyone for a traffic violation on private property, such as the owner’s driveway.

In any event, the obvious moral to the story here is: Don’t give thieves such an easy opportunity to steal your car! If you must warm up your car, do it with a remote starter or use a separate valet key, so that the door can remain locked while the vehicle is unoccupied. Or just, you know, suck it up and sit in a cold car. Put on an extra layer of clothing if you need to. It’s winter, after all.


This Cold-Weather Habit Could Cost You Your Car

It might be tempting to warm your car up by leaving it idling in the driveway. But that could be a very expensive move.


In a World of Self-Driving Vehicles, Car Ownership Would Plunge

A row of Google self-driving cars in Mountain View, California
Eric Risberg—AP A row of Google self-driving cars in Mountain View, California

That's the likely scenario according to a new study that shows the vast majority of American households wouldn't need more than one car.

If Google has its way, self-driving cars could be on the road and part of the mainstream perhaps as soon as 2020. It’s hard to say exactly how such a scenario would impact businesses and consumer behaviors, but theoretically the advent of self-driving vehicles could be truly transformative, including but not limited to the arrival of driverless Uber car services that would make it easier and cheaper than ever to order a ride, and even the potential elimination of drunk driving.

What about car ownership? Some of the research on the topic holds that driverless cars would put more vehicles on the road, but a new study suggests that self-driving vehicles could dramatically reduce car ownership, by cutting down on the number of cars needed in any one household.

Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) looked at patterns of car usage in American households and concluded that self-driving automobiles with a “return-to-home” mode “could reduce the number of vehicles needed within a single household by allowing sharing of vehicles in situations where it is not currently possible.” The idea is that the drivers in many households have little “trip overlap,” the term used to describe times during the day when more than one driver needs a vehicle. In households where there isn’t much overlap, a self-driving vehicle could, for example, bring one spouse to work early in the morning, then return home on its own to pick up the other in order to make a separate run to a different workplace, drop off kids at school, help run errands, etc., before retrieving that original dropoff at the end of the work day.

Just how big of a dent could that scenario make in car ownership? The average number of vehicles per American household is currently 2.1. According to the study, that could dip as low as 1.2, a reduction of 43%, if self-driving cars become a reality and people take advantage of it as expected.

Another eye-opening set of data show that, based on analysis of behavior and overlapping trips of family members, 42% of American households need two cars today. If and when self-driving models are here, however, only 15% would need two vehicles available. The need for three or more cars would plunge as well, from 26.5% today to less than 2% in an era of self-driving cars that could “return-to-home” when the need arose.

How likely is it that self-driving vehicles would cause car ownership rates to drop by nearly half, as projected? No one really knows. The authors of the UMTRI study acknowledge another potential scenario in which “individuals who are currently unable, unwilling, or prohibited from operating a vehicle become users of self-driving vehicles, [possibly bringing about] increased demand for vehicles and increased traffic volumes.”

Then again, it’s arguable that the theoretical projected decline in car ownership highlighted in the study could be on the low side. After all, the study doesn’t take into account the likelihood of households deciding in the future to book on-demand driverless cars when the need arises instead of owning one or more of their vehicles. There are too many unknowns and moving parts to truly see how this will all play out.

So where does that leave us? In some yet-to-be-determined way, “We’re on the cusp of a major mobility transformation,” the car experts at noted, referring to the new UMTRI research. “This study offers a fascinating glimpse into the not-so-distant future.”

It’s a future that may come to view three-car (or even two-car) garages as sorta useless.


At $137,000, the New BMW i8 Is a Steal

This amazing gas-electric hybrid will stop traffic — then leave it in the dust.

The commotion started before I even got to the car. People were taking pictures. The BMW i8 did indeed stop traffic; a guy in a delivery truck braked in the middle of 50th Street to ask permission to take a picture — as if truck drivers in New York City are always asking permission to do things.

When you get to test drive a lot of cars you try to be blasé about them. Bentleys, Benzes, Mustangs, Corvettes, Jags. Next.

Not this time. The BMW i8, a hybrid-electric sportscar machine, is unlike anything else I’ve ever driven. Yes, maybe the lowercase ‘i’ in i8 is a deliberate reference to Apple’s elegant gadgetry, but it’s not by any means a stretch. If you married an iPhone to SpaceX and put the thing on wheels, this is what you might get. The shape is exotic, a curvaceous wedge that is screaming aerodynamics. Its winged doors could make Agent 007 envious. They open skyward, but on the practical side they require only a foot and a half of clearance.

The i8 is priced from about $137,000 to $140,000, although I’m sure you could get one for $130,000 if you negotiate hard. Take it. A steal. Why do I write this way? Wasn’t the Jaguar F-Type and its 550-horsepower power plant a cushy blast? Yes indeed. Is the 2015 ‘Vette not an All-American power avenger going from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a heartbeat? Yes and yes. Love it.

The i8 is a different animal. It has two engines, a battery-powered variety fore and a gasoline-powered one aft. And the latter is a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder number borrowed from the MINI Cooper. How could that putt-putt possibly provide any punch? It does, thanks to some clever German tinkering. The MINI engine is a mini-monster, with an attached turbo booster that raises the output to 228 hp. No big deal, right? Hitch that threebee to the battery-powered, 128-hp traction machine in the front and you get a hybrid 330 horses in a car that weighs 3350 lbs. That’s some 500 lbs. lighter than a Volt. We’re talking about a thrust-to-weight ratio out of a 757.

One of the keys here is the electric engine. As with all electrics — whether you’re driving a Volt, Tesla, or Lionel model train — you get instant torque, because the power reaches the wheels at close to lightspeed. You aren’t actually going to be traveling that fast, although when you punch the i8 in Sport mode, it sure does feel that way. The two large circular indicators that dominate the dashboard change color from cool blue to hot orange. You are in rocket mode, and the i8 starts ripping up pavement at a hellacious clip as you click through the paddle shifters. It’s an elevator ride to 60 mph in four seconds and change. Am I being a tad hyperbolic here? I fear not.

Yet even in the battery-only eDrive mode the ride is special. You drift along as if you are driving a submarine in an urban aquarium, motoring in near silence as spectators gawk. Put on Miles or Mozart or Maroon 5 or whatever you like and you get the sensation that you are seated inside your iPhone listing to iTunes. Try not to notice the people noticing the car. The battery-priority modes you can choose from include Comfort, which imparts much of a sedan feel to the ride, and Eco Pro, which maximizes the fuel savings.

Fuel savings. It’s sort of ironic in a car that clocks in at $136,650 that fuel efficiency is part of the conversation — especially with gas prices under $2 — but BMW is taking the view that energy efficiency is relevant at every price point. And it certainly is. Toyota’s Prius became a status symbol in California for exactly that reason — at least until Tesla got going. The i8 has an electric-only range of about 30 miles, which stinks, before the conventional motor kicks in to charge it. There’s also a portable charger that plugs into a standard 110-volt socket. Combined, the i8 touts a 76 mpg efficiency rating. That gives it a combined range of about 300 miles considering its smallish fuel tank. But as is the case with the Volt, the gas-electric combo eliminates range anxiety from the equation.

Drawbacks? Of course. The i8’s light weight derives from the carbon fiber tub that forms the body, which creates a large lip at the doorway. To say it’s awkward getting in and out of the i8 would be an understatement. The two nominal back seats are very comfortable…for a couple of bags of groceries. There’s a sort of trunk, too, that holds the charger and not much else. On the other hand, the interior is nothing short of cool and elegant, with blue seatbelts and accent lighting offsetting the light gray leather.

So maybe only rich tree-huggers will want to buy an i8, which is a shame. Not that people shouldn’t buy gas guzzling Viper SRTs if that’s what they want in a sports car. To me, it’s all about the ride, and the i8 is just ridiculously fun to drive.


GM Dishes Out Big Bonuses to Union Workers

In the midst of its costly recalls, General Motors gave its union workers a larger bonus than their contract required.


Car Ownership Has Peaked—or Maybe It Hasn’t

new cars on the lot
Per-Anders Pettersson—Getty Images

After a strong January for the auto industry, forecasts call for rising car sales in 2015—followed by more increases in the years ahead. So what's this business about already hitting "Peak Car"?

Based on research from the asset management firm Schroders, Quartz recently made the case that “the Western world’s century-old love affair with the automobile is coming to an end.”

By and large, the data indicate that people around the world—young people in particular—are driving less, less interested in owning cars, and even less likely to bother getting driver’s licenses. In light of such statistics, the argument is that America, and perhaps the world as a whole, has reached the marker that’s been dubbed as “Peak Car,” the point at which car sales and ownership and driving in general go no higher.

“Our research illustrates that for the past decade the developed world has shown signs of hitting ‘peak car,’ a plateau or peak in vehicle ownership and usage,” the Schroders study states plainly.

At the same time, however, Automotive News and others point this week to the new IHS report forecasting that global auto sales will hit 88.6 million in 2015, which would mean a 2.4% increase over 2014 and would mark the fifth year in a row of increasing car sales. Not all parts of the world are expected to be buying more vehicles: Despite cheap gas prices, car sales in South America, Russia, and Western Europe are likely to be underwhelming. Yet strong sales are anticipated by IHS in North America and China, bringing about a “slower, not lower” overall rise in the auto market globally.

Car dealership sales in the northeastern U.S. were likely hurt in January due to major snowstorms, and yet just-reported auto sales for the month have been impressive. It’s expected that automakers will post brag-worthy sales increases of 14% or more, compared with the same period a year ago. At such a pace, total sales for the year could reach 17 million.

IHS’s forecast calls for light-vehicle sales of 16.9 million in the U.S. in 2015, and that might be on the low side. “With a strong exit to 2014, and gasoline prices currently plunging, consumers may feel even more positive throughout 2015,” an IHS statement said. And the IHS report calls for higher sales tallies going forward, with predictions of 17.2 million U.S. car sales in 2016 and 17.5 million in 2017. If that last prediction is realized, it would mean a new peak for the nation, which experienced what was then an all-time high of 17.4 million sales in 2000.

In other words, IHS researchers are saying that neither the U.S. nor the world has reached Peak Car, and that from the looks of things we won’t hit that point for years to come. The Economist has also made the case that, despite millennials’ apparent preference for urban living and lack of enthusiasm for driving and car ownership, “it is not clear that declining car ownership among young urbanites will have more than a marginal effect on overall car sales,” and that Peak Car “still seems quite a long way off.”

The researchers at Schroders and IHS can’t both be right. So who is wrong? Well, we should point out that one of Schroders’ graphs illustrates how consumer interest in buying cars has rebounded across all age groups since the Great Recession ended. Also, some of Schroders’ data is dated: The most recent drivers’ license statistics are from 2010, for instance, while the numbers reflecting a rising propensity to buy cars in the U.S. go no further than 2012.

On the other hand, there are compelling, data-driven arguments that millennials will never love automobiles as much as car-crazed Baby Boomers, that the average number of vehicles owned per driver (or household) will never be as high as it once was, and that people all over the world will be out on the roads less year after year thanks partly to smartphones, e-commerce, car sharing, and other technologies. At the same time, it sure looks like auto sales will be on the rise globally and in the U.S. in 2015, and the year after that, and the year after that, and … who knows?

If Google and/or Uber manage to create and perfect a practical driverless taxi in the near future, all bets—and forecasts—could be off.

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