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Will the automotive retail industry continue its upward momentum through 2021? – Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press

As we see car dealers and OEMs become more proactive and technology continues to evolve, There’s no room to be left behind in today’s market. Today on CBT News, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Mark Phelan, Auto Critic and Columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Phelan joins the show to provide insight into the industry as a whole and what trends he expects to continue for the rest of 2021.

Phelan begins the conversation by reflecting on the unpredictable nature of 2020. In the early phases of the pandemic, the automotive industry was preparing for, as Phelan phrases it, “nuclear winter.” The shutdowns created fear in both the OEM and dealership sectors. While there were certainly initial challenges, demand for vehicles grew as the pandemic progressed. Though inventories were low, car dealers benefited from the highest profit margins ever seen in the history of the industry. 

The top-selling vehicle on the market today is the pickup truck. Phelan says that consumers have become more drawn to pickups as automakers have continued expanding the cab space. Shoppers have been drawn to the added space, advanced technology, and the social gratitude associated with owning a truck. 

Many car dealers have wondered what the vehicle market will look like in the next 10 years as more automakers commit to electric vehicles. Phelan says that he believes the market for EVs is growing, but there might be a level of discrepancy associated with how fast it is growing.

“People talk about ending sales of combustion engines in the next 15 years or so, and that’s aspirational more than a plan,” said Phelan, adding that many vehicles will have combustion engines such as emergency or utility vehicles that must continue to run when the power is down.

Phelan concludes the conversation by giving a preview of the most popular vehicles hitting the market. 2021 is a massive year for Jeep as the brand prepares to launch its hybrid version of the Wrangler, a replacement for the Grand Cherokee, and the Grand Wagoneer. Ford is also preparing to bring back the Maverick as a compact pickup truck. Hyundai also plans to enter the pickup market with its Santa Cruz model.


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CBT Automotive Network is a multimedia broadcast platform serving automotive professionals. With interviews featuring the biggest names in the industry, daily newscasts following top stories, up-to-date market data, and exclusive articles covering the latest industry trends, CBT is the leading voice of the retail automotive industry.

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