SOUTHFIELD, MI – There won’t be flying cars six years from now, but the automotive world will look different to industry insiders in 2019, a panel of experts says at the WardsAuto Outlook conference here.

The rankings of the world’s top vehicle producers will shift, as will the top vehicle-producing countries. And auto makers and consumers alike will have to adjust to new technologies as fuel-economy and emissions regulations force change.

Volkswagen will displace Toyota as the world’s largest auto producer in 2016. There will be far fewer vehicle platforms overall and auto makers will be collaborating more than ever in the development of new engines and transmissions.

What’s more, the spotlight on the fast-growing markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China will move to a new set of fast-rising economies. Industry attention will be focused on fresh automotive investments in the so-called MIST countries (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey) as growth slows in the BRICs.

China’s auto industry will continue to be an automotive powerhouse, building additional volume equivalent to 35 new auto assembly plants by 2019, compared with an equivalent of 10 for India and just four for the U.S. during the same time period, says WardsAuto Global Production Analyst Haig Stoddard.

However, China’s increases will not be able to match the growth percentage in some of the MIST countries.

“We look at where the next country says, ‘We are going to open up our borders and we’re going to offer incentives for companies to come here,’” says Joe McCabe, president-Automotive Compass, which partners with WardsAuto in producing the WardsAuto/AutomotiveCompass long-range global production forecast.

“The reason Indonesia is the hot one is we are seeing a hockey stick of growth in investments there,” McCabe says. Indonesia is situated perfectly near other Association for Southeast Asian Nations markets and China and it is opening its doors to investment, he adds.

“The BRIC countries although still on the radar, we’re seeing that they are moving from emerging almost to stabilizing,” McCabe says.

“It’s not that those investments were misplaced, they’re just not the next big thing anymore,” says John Sousanis, director-WardsAuto data operations and information content.

Stoddard predicts Indonesia will add 540,000 units of annual production, equivalent to two assembly plants, by 2019. Mexico is forecast to add 1,100,000 units of production (equal to five new assembly plants) during the same period, putting it ahead of the U.S. and just slightly behind Brazil’s production growth.

And, while most public attention has been focused on hybrid-electric vehicles and engine downsizing, improved electronics are allowing major advancements in transmissions, says Brian Maxim, senior director-global powertrain forecasting, AutomotiveCompass.

Automatic-transmission development is greatly influenced by geography, with Japanese auto makers focusing on continuously variable transmissions; Europeans concentrating on dual-clutch transmissions; and U.S. auto makers favoring the addition of gears to traditional automatics.

dwinter@wardsauto.com