2) Going hybrid: Toyota made waves in 2011 by rolling out the full-hybrid compact station wagon Prius v, while also unveiling the Prius PHV, a plug-in hybrid vehicle that will hit the road in 2012. In 2011, hybrids were also a theme for Ford, which said it is planning two: the C-Max hybrid and the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. BMW said it would also join the hybrid parade when it announced the i8, a luxury hybrid slated for 2014 that will use an electric drive at the front wheels and an internal combustion engine at the rear. A twist on the hybrid theme also came from Buick this year, as it announced its so-called "mild hybrid" eAssist technology, which offers start-stop capabilities and regenerative braking, but not hybrid propulsion.
The Volt's interior gives the feel of a fighter jet cockpit. Source: GM
3) Connectivity: The demand for connectivity in the vehicle is growing, and automakers, in a bid to outsell one another, are ratcheting up their efforts in this area. In September, a group called the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) unveiled an open standard aimed at making it easier for smartphones to "talk" to a vehicle's center console. Known as Mirror Link, the new open standard enables owners to bring their phones into their vehicles and connect, not only to the center console display, but to the steering wheel knobs and buttons that control various functions. Connectivity was also the theme for Cadillac's CUE, which allows users to operate entertainment and information controls with taps, flicks, swipes, and pinches, à la the Apple iPad. Taking it one step further, Chevrolet also announced the availability of Internet routers in its Silverado trucks.