As the Detroit Region turns the page on a tumultuous 2023, the outlook for 2024 brings many reasons for optimism. The U.S. economy appears to be headed for a “soft landing” that has eluded many industrialized countries around the world. Consumers and businesses continue to spend optimistically, often in defiance of pessimistic prognostications. After several years of hiking interest rates, the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to begin a series of gradual rate drops later in the year. Taken together, these dynamics add up to expectations of a great year ahead. 

U.S. light vehicle sales reached 15.5 million units in 2023, representing an increase of more than 12% compared to the previous year. Cox Automotive expects continued sales growth in the year ahead, with a forecast of 15.7 million units in 2024. These are positive numbers for an industry recovering from a multitude of recent challenges, including a global pandemic, spikes in the pricing of critical inputs like steel and aluminum, semiconductor shortages, high interest rates, and a seemingly never-ending specter of a looming recession that has not happened. 

In 2023, Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) faced a wave of skepticism in the U.S. market for the first time since their impactful debut. As the year went on, growing inventories of unsold BEVs on dealership lots resulted in several automakers announcing price decreases on their BEV offerings. Several automakers also announced revised product plans including a slowing of the development of future BEVs.  However, these dynamics do not represent a decline in the BEV market. More accurately, they are indicators of a more realistic growth trend – one that still represents record sales year after year. 

Critical as it is, electrification represents just one technological trend transforming mobility. Automakers continue to make rapid progress toward autonomous vehicles. Drivers can experience a taste of autonomous driving in vehicles sold today that include technologies like General Motors’ Super Cruise or Ford’s BlueCruise – both of which allow drivers to enjoy hands-free driving on highways. Many related technologies, such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping features, self-parking, pedestrian detection, automated emergency braking, and many more are increasingly available on a wide range of vehicles, regardless of price point. 

The Detroit Region is uniquely positioned to invent, design, engineer, and manufacture these technologies. So well positioned, in fact, it received a $52 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration as part of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, to execute the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) initiative. This initiative leverages our rich ecosystem comprised of thousands of assets – including automakers, suppliers, logistics firms, service providers, incubators, testing facilities, and educational institutions – to help propel the region into the next generation of mobility. Coupled with the region’s diverse population of experienced mobility experts helping to bring these technologies to fruition, this winning formula simply cannot be replicated anywhere else. 

So, as the Detroit Region starts 2024, it is with an air of optimism for what the year and those that follow will bring. The mobility sector is undergoing significant transformation that presents the region with historic opportunities we must seize by uniting individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies from diverse backgrounds. The Detroit Region is better strategically positioned and resource-rich than anywhere else on earth to bring that transformation to life. 

Bernard Swiecki
Vice President, Mobility and Research
The Detroit Regional Partnership