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9 Hot Automotive Brands for 2018

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author photo by Autotrader January 2018

Some automotive brands are hot right now -- and some brands certainly aren't. Today, we're taking a look at the nine brands that are showing the most potential in 2018, offering the best models and attracting the most interest in their new product lines. These aren't necessarily the most popular brands, but rather the brands that are among the most aspirational in today's market -- boasting the most talked-about new models, or the best technology, or the most eye-catching new designs on the market. To create this list, we polled Brian Moody, Autotrader's executive editor, Tara Trompeter, Autotrader's managing editor, and Doug DeMuro, editor of Autotrader's Oversteer enthusiast blog -- and their opinions are spread throughout.

Audi

Not only is Audi increasing the size of its lineup with desirable new models like the Q3 and the A5 Sportback, it's also touting some of the best technology in the car industry thanks to its truly impressive Virtual Cockpit system. Doug DeMuro calls Virtual Cockpit "one of the most impressive new technology features in the entire car industry," while Tara Trompeter notes that it isn't just the technology that makes Audi so hot, saying that "Audi's recently redesigned SUVs are on every mom's lust list, with their sleek exteriors, luxurious interiors and solid versatility."

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Honda

Honda seems to be perennially among the hottest car brands, largely thanks to its highly desirable core product line, which consists of the subcompact Fit, compact Civic and midsize Accord, along with the CR-V and Pilot crossovers and the Odyssey minivan. Brian Moody calls Honda "trend-defying," which is a good way to put it, as its most popular products always seem to remain popular -- and get better -- regardless of what's in vogue. "Plus," points out Brian, "the enthusiast crowd is into the Civic Si and Type R." As Tara puts it, Honda makes a series of vehicles "perfect for whatever stage of life you're in, from that first post-college job to weekend T-ball practice."

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Jeep

SUVs are hot right now -- and brands like Jeep are in the perfect position to cash in, having built a solid reputation on go-anywhere SUVs with a lot of style. While other Chrysler brands seem to be lagging behind the competition, Jeep is surging ahead, with Doug DeMuro noting that "there seems to be a Jeep for everyone, from the off-road Wrangler to the high-performance and wildly thrilling Grand Cherokee Trackhawk." Brian Moody puts it bluntly: "Jeep is what people imagine themselves to be -- outdoorsy, fun, spontaneous and rugged."

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Kia

Formerly an automotive punchline with few desirable products, Kia has transformed itself into a world-class, highly competitive automaker in just over a decade. One major reason is styling, as Kia's lineup now consists primarily of a series of truly handsome vehicles -- a total effort that hasn't really yielded a single bad design. We're especially excited for the new Kia Stinger, which shows the brand seems to understand enthusiasts -- but it's not just that. In addition to the Stinger, Brian notes the "Optima and the surprisingly class-leading Sorento also lead the way."

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Land Rover

Like Jeep, Land Rover has been making SUVs since before they were "cool" -- and now they're in an excellent position to capitalize on the huge surge in popularity of SUVs and crossovers. Although enthusiasts are still waiting patiently for the next Defender, Land Rover seems to have every other base covered, offering six different SUV models and some of the most impressive technology in the car world. Says Doug: "Land Rover has something in every category, and there seems to be no end to the onslaught of new products -- and the cutting-edge technology inside each one."

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Lincoln

After years in the luxury-car doldrums, Lincoln is finally making its way back with a series of brand-new models that offer impressive styling, technology and luxury. Brian calls Lincoln "American luxury," while we're all a little impressed that Lincoln has avoided chasing the "sporty" brand image so many automakers are pursuing, focusing instead on high-quality materials and comfortable, well-appointed, well-equipped vehicles. Lincoln hasn't yet completed its comeback, but it's headed in the right direction.

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Nissan

Nissan continues to roll out desirable SUVs and crossovers at a record pace, bringing its vehicles to the market just as consumer interest is higher than ever. The latest Nissan models to reach the market are a brand-new Armada SUV, a stylish subcompact crossover called the "Kicks," and a smaller version of the Rogue, dubbed simply the "Rogue Sport." Nissan's status as part of a powerful global alliance also helps its momentum, as Brian notes the brand "can share technology, engines and facilities," developing new models that "will anchor the brand's growth in the U.S."

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Subaru

As many automakers try hard for your business with catchy designs and bold new technology, Subaru goes the safe route. Doug notes they "produce high-quality, practical, useful vehicles that won't necessarily garner a lot of attention or excitement -- but will get you wherever you need to go with little fanfare." Subaru has also become masterful at selling the brand as a lifestyle; Brian notes they "infuse a fun, happy character into every model." Indeed, buying a Subaru makes you feel like you're part of a little club -- even though that club is actually huge, as sales have skyrocketed due to an expanding lineup and well-known reliability.

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Volvo

Volvo has been rescued from near-obscurity, where it once offered a confusing lineup of sedans that were all about the same size. These days, Volvo is all about technology, style and safety, and they're leaders in all three areas; Doug notes "Volvo has recently been a master of style, technology, comfort and even fuel efficiency." But it's not just that -- Volvo has released the right vehicles at the right time, offering three brand-new crossovers (XC40, XC60 and XC90) right as shoppers are most interested. Says Tara, "Great-looking, tech-filled, SAFE crossovers are the key to Volvo being top of mind right now for young families everywhere."

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Opinion Splitter: Tesla

Interestingly, when we each compiled our lists of "hot" and "not" automotive brands, Brian Moody put Tesla on his "not" list, while Doug called it one of the hottest brands on the market today. Like usual, Tesla is splitting opinions: Doug says "the Model 3 is definitely the hottest car of the year, with few new models inspiring so much interest and anticipation," while Brian says "It's hard to continually position yourself as a leader" -- a good point, especially given that other automakers are starting to catch up. Brian also says Tesla's huge recent success "has to end sometime, unless there's a landslide of new products on the way." Indeed, Tesla is still an upstart, so it's hard to predict what happens next -- but if our opinions are any indication, we can be sure it'll remain controversial.

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9 Hot Automotive Brands for 2018 - Autotrader