What kind of car has "jaw-dropping potential"?
Automakers release new models every year. Most of them are just incremental upgrades (at best) over the cars they replace. They're a little roomier, a little quieter, a little more fuel-efficient. That's all fine, but it's not the kind of thing that gets most investors' attention.
The ones that do are the new cars that redefine categories, create significant new categories, or represent a major leap forward for the automakers in question.
Three of the Fool's car-minded specialists recently sat down to nominate recent new models that seem to have "jaw-dropping" potential in one or more of these ways. Here's what they came up with.
BMW's i-cars could transform the company
Travis Hoium: The Tesla Motors Model S proved that electric vehicles had a market, but I think BMW's (NASDAQOTH:BAMXF) i-Series of cars has the most potential in this booming market. Launched in 2014, BMW's i3 is already the third-best-selling electric vehicle in the U.S. so far in 2015, with 3,087 units sold, and the i8 plug-in hybrid is sold out for its first year of production.
What's exciting about BMW's move into electric vehicles is the engineering expertise and sheer scale the automaker brings to the table. The i3 took lightweight construction to the next level with an entire chassis built out of carbon fiber, making it 40% lighter than the Model S (albeit with a shorter range). BMW is working with Toyota on post-lithium battery technology. Could that bring 300-plus mile range to a BMW?
With 1.8 million vehicles sold in 2014, BMW also has the scale to bring to market luxury electric vehicles that feature the performance we've come to expect from the company.
The i3 and i8 are small sellers for BMW today, but they could transform the company's future. These vehicles have proven wildly successful in their first year on the market, and the high torque of electric vehicles plays into BMW's high-performance reputation, so they're a match made in heaven. Potentially, the i-Series of vehicles could revolutionize one of the most iconic car companies in the world. That's saying something.
Ford's all-new F-150 is the one to watch
Rich Smith: Mind if I stretch the definition of "car" a bit? How about if I take off the trunk and install a pickup box instead? Because if you ask me, the vehicle with the most potential to significantly benefit an automaker this year -- and most years -- is Ford's (NYSE:F) F-150 line of pickup trucks.
John Rosevear: It's just a family sedan, and it replaces a car that has been kind of a dud for GM -- but the all-new-for-2016 Chevrolet Malibu is going to be a much bigger deal than you might think. Here's why.