Editorial

Did These New Niche Models Fulfill Their True Potential?

It isn't easy starting an entire automotive segment, but sometimes the effort pays off.

Like a fierce ongoing competition between some of the best chefs in the world, the only way to make a surefire best seller is to experiment with a various renditions to see which one gets the best reception from the public. This means that every year, an automaker or two will take a gamble and pitch out a new model to see what happens. In 2015, there were various automakers that debuted new models. We’ll check in with each of the niche submissions to see how they're doing today.

Mercedes started the whole four-door coupe thing back in 2005 when it debuted the CLS. Knowing full well that looks matter to the luxury-buying segment, Mercedes sought to combine the good looks of a coupe with the versatility of a sedan. The only problem is that Mercedes has (somehow) left a gap open since it currently only has the bottom-feeding CLA and the much more expensive CLS. No in between existed until BMW decided to build the 4 Series Gran Coupe in 2015. BMW wanted to capitalize on the success of the 6 Series Gran Coupe with something cheaper, and it succeeded. Both the 3 and 4 Series make up 40% of BMW’s US sales, and the numbers are evenly split between the two models with help from the 4 Series Gran Coupe.

Subcompact SUVs aren’t a brand new item, although Jeep took quite a gamble when it started selling the Renegade in 2015. On its shoulders, FCA placed the responsibility of building a car that rested on a unibody platform, felt at home on the trails and in the shopping mall, and was styled for the youth. It competed with more serious although slightly less off-road capable options like the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, and Chevrolet Trax. So far, the Renegade ranks fairly low near it’s more established and family-oriented competitors, but momentum seems to be picking up. In the first half of 2015, Jeep sold 14,431 Renegades and given that the subcompact SUV segment is the fastest growing, we expect it to push higher on the list.

Like the four-door coupe segment, the extreme luxury coupe is not a new segment at all. But that didn’t stop Mercedes from taking its sweet time to build a modern luxury coupe that could go toe to toe with Bentley. Previously, the Tri-Star had gone after that crowd with the CL coupe. The car was as good as any S-Class, but it wasn’t even a blip on Bentley's radar. Then, in 2015, it decided to take the new S-Class and chop two doors off. Even though the four door S-Class can’t be mistaken for a peasant’s car, the coupe looks stunning and is packed with enough technology and upgraded features that it elevates the S-Class up to the same level as the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Bentley Continental.

Honorable Mentions: Mercedes CLA and GLA. Okay, so both of these cars have had a place in the market since 2014, but as highly specific niche models that have the potential to change the game, it’s important to check in and see how they are doing with the whole “changing the market” crusade. So far, these low-cost high-volume luxury cars have proved to be a nice sales boost for Mercedes that will likely pay off in the long run. Not only do these cars attract buyers to the brand who would usually shop down market, but if a rapport can be developed, Mercedes will have repeat customers. Unfortunately, demand is tapering off from what was once sell-out fanaticism. The recent drop in sales numbers reflects this but hey, you can’t win em’ all.

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