If the New Year is a time for determined optimism and resolutions that may not be kept, the world's automakers are in perfect tune with January 2019:
Optimism is required, thanks to threats ranging from tariffs to trade wars, and an economic cycle that seems overdue for a downturn.
Automakers are drawing ever closer to the day when they have to prove they can sell the mass-market electric vehicles, self-driving cars and mobility services they've promised for years.
Dozens of new vehicles will hit the market in 2019. The shift from cars to SUVs adds to the uncertainty, as do a pair of midsize pickups that will test the limits of demand for a segment automakers nearly abandoned less than a decade ago.
Here's a look, alphabetically by brand, at some of the most important and interesting vehicles coming this year:
2019 Audi E-tron Quattro
The first in a family of E-tron luxury vehicles, the Quattro five-passenger SUV is the first real test of Volkswagen Group's conversion to electric vehicles. Early reports from the first drive in Abu Dhabi have been largely positive on comfort and performance (124 mph top speed, 5.5 seconds 0-60 mph), but they're not particularly relevant until EPA ratings for range and charging time are available.
U.S. E-tron Quattro prices will start at $74,800. Cars will be built to order, with deliveries beginning in the second quarter.
2019 BMW X7 and 2020 BMW M340i
BMW has the auto industry's best slogan - "the ultimate driving machine" - but there have been mutterings that recent vehicles don't live up to that promise. The brand's main new vehicles this year pose a particular challenge on that front.
Nearly the size and weight of a Chevy Tahoe, the X7 will have its hands full delivering thrilling performance that can compare to the 7-series sedan that's been the brand's top model till now.
X7 prices start at $73,900. Sales begin this spring.
The M340i must silence detractors who say the 3-series sport sedans that built BMW's reputation have grown too big and soft. The M340i is a new, 382-horsepower model that hopes to change their minds and create a glow in which lesser 3-series models can bask. An all-new chassis, 4.2-second 0-60 time and optional sport-tuned all-wheel-drive xDrive provide cause for optimism.
The M340i should go on sale in July.
Cadillac XT6, CT5 and Escalade
This is a huge year for Cadillac. The XT6 three-row SUV, debuting in conjunction with the Detroit auto show Jan. 14, is the brand's long-awaited, desperately needed answer to popular luxury SUVs like the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and the new BMW X7. If done right, it will raise the brand's image and prestige by giving buyers what they want and setting new standards for style, comfort and technology.
The CT5 sport sedan replaces the CTS, an outstanding sport sedan that's struggled to establish itself as a competitor to the BMW 3-series and Audi A4. If the CT5 can't do the job, it's worth asking how long Cadillac will continue to build cars in addition to SUVs.
Arriving late in the year, the Escalade large SUV is Cadillac's undisputed flagship: the vehicle most customers think of when they hear the word "Cadillac," the brand's biggest moneymaker and most prestigious vehicle. The all-new 2020 needs far more luxurious and beautiful interiors to regain the spotlight from the Lincoln Navigator.
2019 Chevrolet Blazer and 2020 Silverado HD
The five-passenger Blazer midsize SUV should give Chevy a strong competitor in a growing segment. A lovely exterior design is a start, but the interior looks, comfort and features need to bring their A game to compete with the Nissan Murano, Ford Edge and new Honda Passport. Sales begin early this year.
The new Silverado HD, a workhorse medium-duty pickup with show-horse looks and features, is sure to be a hot seller, as will its GMC sibling, the Sierra HD. Capability or features that go beyond the expected might help Chevy's Silverado family regain attention that shifted to the surprising Ram 1500 light-duty pickup last year.
Ford Shelby GT 500 Mustang, Explorer, Ranger
Expect the Shelby GT 500 to be the most powerful Mustang ever when it debuts at the Detroit auto show Jan. 14.
If that's not enough excitement from the Blue Oval in January, an all-new Explorer SUV that shares its architecture with the Lincoln Aviator will bow in Detroit Jan. 9. Expect three rows of seats, a rear-drive base model, optional four-wheel-drive and a hybrid.
The new Ranger midsize pickup arrives in dealerships any day. In addition to more city-friendly dimensions than the F-150, features include a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and electronic controls for tricky off-road situations.
2019 Honda Passport
The five-passenger Passport midsize SUV looks a lot like a shortened version of Honda's popular Pilot three-row SUV. Selling points will include interior room and safety features.
The Passport joins the Chevrolet Blazer, the second new player in what's likely to become a rash of five-seat midsize SUVs.
Sales begin early this year.
2020 Hyundai Palisade
Hyundai's biggest vehicle, the Palisade three-row SUV, introduces a new design theme for the brand. The big grille and upright sides are more formal than the flowing lines of models like the Sonata and Elantra.
Selling points will include lots of driver assistance and safety features and power-folding third row seats.
Sales begin this summer.
2020 Jeep Gladiator
The Gladiator is Jeep's first pickup in more than 20 years and the other reason to be excited about midsize pickups this year. A rare pickup that should be recognizable at 100 yards, the Gladiator will offer locking front and rear axles, limited-slip differential and disconnecting sway bars for off-road capability. Either a soft or hardtop is available, and both can be removed, as can the doors.
Jeep will build the Gladiator only in four-door-crew cab models with four-wheel drive; there's no cut price single-cab base model.
Sales should begin in the second quarter.
2020 Lincoln Aviator and Corsair
The elegant 2020 Lincoln Aviator three-row SUV uses a brand-new architecture that's likely to provide the basis for other Lincoln models, as well as the already-announced 2020 Ford Explorer. The Aviator has a roomy interior and will offer the brand's Black Label luxury trim. A twin-turbo V6 and plug-in hybrid model will be available from launch.
"Corsair" is expected to be the name of the compact SUV that will replace Lincoln's MKC. Based on the same underpinnings as the Ford Escape, it may reach the market late in 2019.
Toyota RAV4, Highlander, Corolla sedan
The aggressively styled 2019 RAV4 compact SUV has big shoes to fill. It's become a cash cow for Toyota, and the outgoing model was virtually certain to end 2018 as America's bestselling non-pickup for the second year in a row. In addition to tougher looks and a four-wheel-drive system that claims greater off-road ability, the new RAV4 offers lots of standard driver assistance features and a hybrid. Gasoline RAV4s should be in dealerships now. Hybrids arrive in March.
The new Highlander three-row family carrying SUV joins the RAV4 in the second half. Expect a long list of standard safety and driver assist features and improved fuel economy.
There was a time when a new Corolla was front-page news, but consumers' flight from cars to SUVs renders a new compact sedan almost a curiosity in 2019. The new Corolla will feature the famous nameplate's first hybrid, making it the latest the latest Toyota that will try to escape the massive shadow cast by the Prius.