Surprise! The 3 Most Game-Changing Vehicles on the Market Are American

If someone told you a decade ago that three of the automotive industry's most innovative and game-changing vehicles would be built by American automakers, would you have laughed?

It would have certainly been difficult to imagine, back when Detroit automakers were known for poor quality passenger cars and gas-guzzling, street-clogging, SUVs. But fast-forward to 2014, and three of the industry's arguably game-changing vehicles are indeed American. Without further ado, here's the list of game-changing vehicles from Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F  ) , General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) , and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  )

Let's kick the list off with the least innovative, yet still game-changing, vehicle on the list.

Chevrolet's 2014 Impala. Source: General Motors

3. General Motors' 2014 Chevrolet Impala
I know what you're thinking, how the heck is the Impala a game-changing vehicle? Hear me out. In terms of what the Impala is, it's not going to change how we look at the automotive industry. But what the Impala represents will certainly emphasize how Detroit automakers have changed the game.

Consider that Consumer Reports magazine named the 2014 Impala its top-ranking sedan. So what, right? Well, that's a big deal when you have to turn back the clock two decades to find the last American vehicle that has held that spot.

In fact, Detroit automakers had essentially been left for dead in the domestic midsize and large vehicle segments. If it wasn't a truck or SUV, and it was Detroit made, you weren't interested. Vehicles such as the Chevy Impala, and Ford's Fusion, have changed the game when it comes to consumers paying attention to Detroit passenger cars.

"The Impala's performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance," said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing, according to the Detroit News.

Next up is a historically dominant vehicle from General Motors cross-town rival, Ford.

2015 F-150. Source: Ford Motor Company

2. Ford's 2015 F-150
While it's absolutely a great thing for Detroit to be competing in the passenger vehicle market again, if you could pick one vehicle segment to dominate, though, it would be full-size pickups. That's because full-size pickups haul in larger transaction prices and profits for automakers -- that's where the money is.

Ford's F-Series trucks have long dominated the segment, being America's best-selling truck for 37 years, and our nation's best-selling overall vehicle for 32 years. Ford's F-Series has even outsold the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra combined since 2009. Rather than resting on its dominance, Ford is doing something that no automaker has done -- produce an aluminum-bodied vehicle at such high production volumes.

By using aluminum in the F-Series' truck body, and then further strengthening its steel frame, the next-generation F-150 is going to have the best of both worlds: a more durable truck frame with less total weight. That weight reduction, of up to 750 pounds, will improve the truck's fuel economy for truck buyers.

Furthermore, this use of aluminum shouldn't be confused with a crinkling beer can. The heat-treated aluminum has better properties than steel when it comes to dent and ding resistance, and at one-third of the density, it can be thicker and more light-weight at the same time.

In addition to the truck's weight reduction, Ford is adjusting its engine lineup to better serve different consumers. Ford will offer a 3.5-liter V-6, a 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, a 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6, and a 5.0-liter v-8. That means no potential truck buyer will be stuck without the exact performance they desire, be it a work truck needing daily V-8 performance, or a daily driver with better fuel economy that can tow when called upon.

Long story short, as gas prices rise and consumers demand a stronger truck, Ford's 2015 F-150 will provide a military-grade aluminum body for better fuel economy and a truck that delivers more towing and hauling capability than its previous generation. Aluminum bodied trucks are coming and competitors will scramble to copy Ford.

"Our assumption is that the Ford F-150 will be successful, there is no way Ford won't let it not be successful," Richard Schultz, managing director of Ducker Worldwide said. "And there is no way GM and Chrysler would not follow Ford."

Last on this list, yet arguably the most innovative and potentially game-changing vehicle in decades, is from the youngest American automaker.

Model S. Source: Tesla Motors

1. Tesla Motors' Model S
The automotive industry has used internal combustion engines to power vehicles for more than a century. The industry was practically begging for disruption and innovation, and finally the Model S represents a true game-changing development for electric vehicles.

Don't confuse Tesla's Model S for your stereotypical electric car, though. The Model S is a unique twist between a sports car, luxury car, and purely electric vehicle and could be the greatest American-made car ever.

Looking at the sports car angle, Tesla's Model S with its top-spec model accelerates from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds. If those numbers are meaningless to you, consider that a 2001 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0 accelerates zero to 60 in the same 4.2 seconds. Further, the top-spec Model S would even beat a Porsche 2013 911 Carrera to 60 by one-tenth of a second -- pretty impressive for an electric car, no?

Beyond its racetrack qualities, Tesla's Model S also earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and topped the list in every subcategory. To put it another way, Tesla's Model S outscored every major make and model vehicle approved for sale in the United States and set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants -- also impressive, no?

With as many record-setting attributes as the Model S has, it shouldn't be a surprise that Consumer Reports awarded the electric vehicle a 99 out of 100 points -- one of the highest scores the publication has ever given. Motor Trend also unanimously voted the Model S as its 2013 "Car of the Year". For those of you dismissing the Model S because of its high price tag, which starts around $70,000, fear not: It's more affordable third-generation vehicle will hit the markets in roughly three years and cost half as much.

All three of these vehicles are changing the game for their respective automakers, and further prove that American automakers are indeed enjoying a resurgence in the industry.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 1:14 PM, ramesses05 wrote:

    impala is BS.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 1:47 PM, sabebrush6 wrote:

    The only problem I see with the Impala is that it needs a sporty coupe to go along with the 4-door sedan. Sedans are great for families but what about all of us that like the full size sporty car look ?

    I always drove 2 door sport coupes even when my kids were growing up. Momma had the 4-door sedan. Everyone was happy. I think Chevy is missing a big market.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 2:11 PM, btc909 wrote:

    Impala is in the same market segment as an Avalon.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 4:15 PM, lansenmeister wrote:

    I think I might go drive an Impala before I say anything supportive or critical of the car. Darn my mother for insisting on fairness and reasonableness when I was growing up, instead of letting me "shoot from the lip" which I wanted to do.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 5:36 PM, DBeard54 wrote:

    I absolutely despise General Motors, don't know much about Tesla, but can't wait to see the new 2015 F150 in showrooms. Not sure I'm ready to trade my 2010 XLT yet but if I test drive a 2015, I know I'll be signing papers. What an awesome truck!

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 8:51 PM, PhilLC1 wrote:

    all three pretty irrelevant from a global perspective, so game changing for whom?

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 10:34 PM, southernshark wrote:

    I don't despise two Cheve cars, and you can guess which two those are (name starts with a C) but the rest of them are crap.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 8:15 AM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:


    I see where you're coming from on this point. Although, the F-150 isn't going to change the game in terms of sales outside the U.S, it does bring in a majority of Ford's profits -- so it's a huge deal. Then, the switch to Aluminum, which will require competitors to copy in the years ahead would be a game changer that Ford was the first to adopt (with its most profitable vehicle, in its most profitable region).

    Because Tesla is in the very early innings, it's barely been able to export vehicles. It remains supply constrained, however, make no mistake that this vehicle is going global and will be the first chance to disrupt the automotive industry, and its gas chugging ways, in over a century.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:16 AM, Midwestworker wrote:

    So tired of hearing about GM's great cars... with 10 billion of taxpayers money why wouldn't they be? On top of that GM always comes out with new and improved right after Ford - New Fusion followed by - new Impala. GM will forever be Government Motors - want to sue for a faulty ign switch that GM buried under the rug - just sue Uncle Sam.

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Daniel Miller

As a Motley Fool Industrial Specialist, I use my marketing and business background in the automotive industry to evaluate major automakers and other large industrial corporations. Follow me on twitter for tweets about stocks, cars, sports, and anything I find amusing.

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