Is there still a solid market?
It doesn't take a full-time auto industry analyst to know SUVs and crossovers are now the best-sellers for most mainstream automakers. Take BMW, for example. Its lineup of SAVs (so-called "Sport Activity Vehicles") accounts for nearly 60 percent of its global sales last year. Vehicles like the BMW Z4 are there for both tradition's sake and to satisfy a small but important group of customers. But what about traditional sedans? How are the BMW 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series holding up against their SAV brethren?
Autoblog spoke to BMW's head of design, Domagoj Dukec about this subject and the ultimate question for some of the ultimate driving machines was this: Do these iconic sedans still have a long-term future? Dukec explained that BMW's market research identified two main styling trends: casual and elegant.
Casual design, as he compared it to, is like a loft, meaning there's no separation between the kitchen and living room. There's a good chance you'll find the resident's bicycle parked in the hallway instead of being chained up outside or parked in a garage. If that's your lifestyle, you're more likely to get an SAV (what the rest of the world refers to as an SUV), or even a station wagon. These people prefer more open spaces that SUVs offer. Elegant design, on the other hand, is more traditional. There's separation between the kitchen and living room.
"You separate the engine from the cabin from the luggage space," Dukec added. Of course, not all Americans live in lofts and millions of Chinese customers are now opting for SAVs as well, but two different lifestyles often require different vehicle types.
Dukec's interesting analogy does explain why automakers, at least BMW, have no intention of abandoning sedans. However, Dukec did acknowledge that the traditional sedan design needs to be modernized.
"The 40-60 or 50-50 [sedan-SUV] split will remain, so yes, sedans will stay relevant. There also has to be a certain modernization, or evolution, of the body style. It can't just be the classic three-box [silhouette]. We see that, in China, they're asking for more elegance, maybe something like a two-and-a-half-box. This is something we are looking at," he summarized.
So, in other words, more BMW Gran Coupes will be coming our way.