How did Autocar's 2020 predictions fare?

2020 predictions

2020 didn’t quite turn out as we expected – for obvious reasons

This time last year, we never could have guessed what 2020 had in store. We examine what came to pass

Every January, the Autocar team is tasked with making bold predictions of what will happen in the car industry over the coming year. Hmm. No spoiler alerts are needed to say that 2020 didn’t quite turn out exactly as anticipated…

With the dizzying, bewildering impact of Covid-19 still playing out on a global scale and touching every single element of society, revisiting our predictions now feels like looking back a lot further than 12 months. We prophesied, for example, that the UK’s roads would keep getting busier…

But beyond the huge effect the pandemic has had on the automotive industry, many of our predictions have in fact come to pass. So as this year draws to a close, it’s time to look back and see what we got right and wrong.

We’ll be making our predictions for what will hopefully be a brighter, happier 2021 in our 23/30 December double issue. To suggest your own, email

Car sales and the rise of the EV

It has been a seminal year for electric cars, with the arrival of models such as the Volkswagen ID 3, Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e putting EVs firmly into the mainstream.

Even with those cars coming, we suggested in January that EVs would remain a tiny proportion of overall sales, anticipating that the figure would rise from 1.5% of all cars sold to around 5%. Well, as of October, EVs were up 165.4% year on year, which accounted for 5.4% of all cars registered in 2020. Well done us.

We weren’t quite so good on the specifics: we tipped the ID 3 to become Europe’s best-selling EV by the end of this year. Its relatively late arrival across different markets has stopped that coming true, although it did top Norway’s EV sales chart in September.

On the flip side, we predicted that diesel sales would continue to plummet; sure enough, sales dropped 56.3% year on year, with diesel cars now making up just 16.8% of the overall market.

Elsewhere, we said city cars would continue their slow death – and sales have continued to slide dramatically. There is some hope, though, with Hyundai’s excellent new i10 proving car makers are still prepared to invest in them, and the new Fiat 500 EV and Honda E showing that city cars could be in for a revival in the electric era.


Covid-19 caused mayhem for F1, with the final 2020 calendar bearing little resemblance to the original schedule.

Lewis Hamilton’s dominance was far more predictable: we tipped the Mercedes-AMG man to score the eight wins needed to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix victories, and he duly delivered. And, as we also predicted, some people still insist that Hamilton isn’t one of the all-time greats (they’re wrong).

Our other motorsport predictions didn’t quite go to form. We tipped six-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier to claim a dominant title on his switch to Toyota – at the time of writing, he was trailing his team-mate Elfyn Evans in the points. We also said Colin Turkington would become the BTCC’s first five-time champion, but we had reckoned without Laser Tools Racing’s unlikely transformation of the Infiniti Q50 from quirky oddity into pace-setting package and hard charger Ash Sutton’s ability to extract the maximum from it on his way to a second title.

Industry trends

Despite fresh opposition from ‘social distancing’ and ‘the new normal’, the climate crisis has turned ‘sustainability’ into one of the biggest buzzwords of the moment. With that in mind, we predicted that car makers would start really pushing towards CO2-neutral production and taking other eco-friendly measures.

That definitely came to pass, with Volkswagen going to great lengths to outline the CO2-neutral production process for the ID 3 and ID 4, Volvo working to ensure the sustainability of its supply chain and Polestar publishing a CO2 impact report for the production of its new 2 EV.

We also suggested the use of real leather in car interiors could become akin to wearing fur – and there has since been big growth in sustainable and vegan replacement fabrics.

We made some predictions about two key government policy areas. We reckoned Bristol’s plan to ban diesel cars would fail, and it was subsequently rejected by the UK government. The city’s council is currently reviewing a new plan.

Elsewhere, we anticipated a government-led review of the safety of smart motorways. That thankfully came to pass, and a series of new safety measures have been recommended as a result.

We also predicted that PSA Group boss Carlos Tavares would work his magic on Alfa Romeo following his firm’s merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Given that the FCA-PSA merger – to form the weirdly named Stellantis – won’t go through until early next year, we will have to give it until the end of 2021 to see if that comes true.

New cars

In January, we eagerly awaited our first proper taste of the new Land Rover Defender, and it was as much hope as prediction when we tipped it to be “epic off road and good on it”.

Well, in the past 12 months, we’ve battled through Namibia in it and tried various versions here in the UK. Our road testers’ verdicts? Noting that, both on and off road “at no time has it been found wanting”, we called it “one of the most broadly capable cars in the world”.

We also tipped Aston Martin’s DBX to be a huge success, not least because it needed to be. The British marque had a truly tumultuous year, with billionaire Lawrence Stroll leading a consortium that bought it. The DBX played its part, too, with the full 2020 production run finding buyers. It’s also very good: we awarded it a hugely rare 4.5 stars.

We had similarly high hopes for the Ford Mustang Mach-E, but we’re still waiting for a proper test. We also predicted there would be a rush of electric hot hatches and the unveiling of a truly affordable sports EV. We’re still waiting for both, but there is an encouraging number of small, sporty electric hatchbacks that should be ripe for performance variants soon.

Other predictions

Motor shows

What we said: “Detroit will showcase the future of motor shows.”

What happened: Detroit, like most major shows in 2020, was canned due to Covid-19 – which, in a way, does showcase the likely lack of a future for motor shows…

Saloon cars

What we said: “EVs will spark a saloon car revival.”

What happened: We’re still waiting for this, but the forthcoming Jaguar XJ and Mercedes-Benz EQS electric saloons keep us hoping that it will nonetheless come to pass.


What we said: “Elon Musk will continue to needle rival car firms on Twitter.”

What happened: Musk stepped back from feuding with other car firms, probably because he was busy feuding with officials about the Covid-forced closure of Tesla’s California factory.

Chinese car firms

What we said: “A Chinese car firm will reach Europe.”

What happened: Lynk&Co recently launched subscription-only UK sales.


Zoom meeting: The Autocar road tester’s Christmas lunch 

Autocar’s ultimate Christmas quiz 

Christmas road test 2020: The Goodyear blimp


Source: Autocar

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