Time to breathe a sigh of relief.
As new car buyers continue to shift away from sedans to SUVs and crossovers, the longterm future of sports cars comes into question. Two-seat coupes and roadsters are two of the slowest-selling segments these days and this trend isn't likely to end soon. BMW and Toyota, for example, teamed up for the latest Z4 and Supra in order to share development costs because it was next to impossible to make a business case otherwise.
One automaker who knows a thing or two about sports cars is Mercedes-Benz. Yet it currently only offers three sports cars: the SLC Roadster, SL Roadster, and AMG GT (let's face it, the ultra-limited Mercedes-AMG One doesn't really count). The SLC Roadster is not returning for the 2020 model year and there are no immediate plans for a successor, as far as we know. As Mercedes' most affordable two-door sports car, this begs the question as to whether or not the company still sees the segment as worthwhile. Turns out the answer is 'yes.'
Autocar recently spoke to Mercedes design director Gorden Wagener who not only confirmed the company is committed to sports cars, but there are other encouraging signs their popularity isn't dwindling as much as some may think. "I read that one race track a week is being opened in China," Wagener said. "Many of them are private facilities, but this underlines that there is still a strong appetite for sporty cars for the future."
What Wagener didn't mention is what will motivate them. Will future sports cars still be powered by internal combustion engines? Or will they go the all-electric or plug-in hybrid route? Chances are it'll be a combination of all three for the foreseeable future.
Porsche, however, appears to be moving relatively fast into the world of EV sports cars, evidenced by its decision to electrify the next-generation 718 Cayman. A mid-engined sports car layout is ideally suited for all-out electrification because the weight distribution and low center of gravity were already ideal. If Porsche is considering a 718 Cayman with 400 pure electric horsepower, it's hard to imagine Mercedes isn't examining similar possibilities.
As long as there are driving enthusiasts opening tracks and buying sports cars, it appears Mercedes will always somehow manage to make a business case.