x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Be prepared for interesting times ahead

We can only look forward to more massive changes in the car industry. Keep an eye out for how these storylines unfold in the new year.

Is another year gone already? As we reflect on the busy motoring year that was 2008, we can only look forward to more massive change in the car industry. Keep an eye out for how these storylines unfold in the new year.

General Motors, Chrysler and, to a lesser extent, Ford came to the brink of bankruptcy this year. It was only due to an emergency US$17.4 billion loan from the US government to the car makers - and an additional US$4 billion from the Canadian government, where much of the industry is based - that GM and Chrysler are able to pay their employees and still be in business right now. But that money is only expected to last until March, which means the car makers must heavily restructure the way they do business. "There's going to be fewer factories, fewer salaried and hourly workers, lower compensation, fewer brands, fewer models, fewer dealers," Dana Johnson, senior economist with Dallas-based Comerica Inc., told the Detroit Free Press. There is no doubt there will be big change in the US car industry; the only question is, how much? And, how will it affect the rest of the manufacturers?

So the laws limiting the ownership and sales of older cars have all been put on hold - for now. At least, that's how it sounds at this point. This is fantastic news for many people - car selection won't be as limited, prices won't rise substantially and that eight-year-old vehicle you own won't instantly become practically worthless. And low- to middle-income earners will feel some relief. But these laws haven't been outright dismissed, so it begs the question: will we see these outrageous rules again? If so, when?

No question, the big story for the emirates next year is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, set for Nov 1. A new, state-of-the-art track is being built on Yas Island for the event, complete with hotels, a Ferrari World theme park and other amenities. With it appearing last on Formula 1's 2009 calendar, it could prove to be the decisive race for the championships - and, consequently, the most exciting round of the year.

Formula 1 will also have a different look next year. New regulations include different aerodynamic wings and a return to slick tyres, which will not only change the look of the cars but will supposedly allow for closer racing and more overtaking. And, will someone pick up the mantle that Honda has dropped? The car maker has reported that no less than three parties are interested in buying its F1 assets, after the Japanese firm dropped out of the series.

It's been a tough year for Max Mosley, but his tenure as head of the FIA will end in October, and a successor has yet to be announced. Names such as Marco Piccinini, the deputy president of the FIA, and Jean Todt, who stepped down as CEO of Ferrari in March (starting the rumours that he was positioning himself for Mosley's seat) have been circulated. But an outside shot at the presidency might go to the UAE's own Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who was recently appointed vice-president of sport for the FIA. Ben Sulayem has been a vocal supporter of Mosley throughout his troubles, something that may help in the final decision.

The little car that hasn't - yet. After debuting at the Delhi Car Show early last year, the Tata Nano was supposed to have been in full production by now, but problems in setting up a factory in India have dogged Ratan Tata, the company's founder. Now, production of the Nano, which has been billed to be the world's cheapest car with an expected price tag of around Dh9,000, has been put on hold until the company can come up with a place to build them.

Whenever the Nano gets going, it is expected to put millions of Indians into a new car for the first time. nvorano@thenational.ae