Money can do anything, even give birth to new segments of rolling palaces.
These are strange times indeed. There is a democratic socialist running for office and protesters continue to congregate to protest wealth inequality. Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer and they are spending this excess cash on cars fit for kings. As the public begins to favor miniaturized SUVs (crossovers) and fuel-efficient cars, the rich want to show how many middle fingers they give by gaining an appetite for large luxury barges that can play in the dirt.
Maybe they’re afraid that the Occupy movement will decide to start a mutiny and they want off-road capability to ensure their escape, but whatever the reason, their dollars are being spent on bigger four-wheeled palaces and automakers don’t want to miss out on this. While luxury car sales climbed 13.2% in 2015, demand for luxury SUV sales ballooned by 44%. The segment began in 1981 when Land Rover added a four-door Range Rover to their lineup complete with leather and an automatic transmission. Other automakers like Cadillac and Lincoln added plush off-roaders like the Escalade and the Navigator to their lineups in the late 90s, but it took a while until other automakers caught on.
Even though manufacturers like Mercedes had luxurious SUVs like the Mercedes G-Class since the early 90s, it did not reach automotive sex-symbol status until the 2010s when rappers and the Kardashians decided to add them to their garages and music videos. Their rise relied exclusively on the popularity of the Escalade, Navigator, and $50,000 plus trucks like the F-150. Land Rover’s Range Rover line contributed greatly when it was reengineered for luxury and began to seem more at home with Gucci bag-toting drivers than with explorer types. Bentley’s marketing team was left scratching their heads when they saw Mulsanne owners with Range Rovers instead of more Bentleys in their driveways.
The fact was that these buyers had no choice but to swim downstream to have their needs met. Luxury automakers soon got to work to avoid missing out on the trend, and soon the world’s most expensive brands had SUV concepts of their own. Bentley debuted the EXP 9F concept, Lamborghini showed a disbelieving world the Urus, Maserati designed the Levante, Jaguar promised the F-Pace, and Rolls-Royce told everyone that they had added an SUV to their to-do list. There is no telling whether or not these SUVs will hit the market in time to take advantage of the craze, but with gas currently at a record low of $1.83 for a gallon of regular in the U.S., it seems likely.
Its not like people spending $100,000 plus for an SUV will care much about the price anyway. Besides, since newly created wealth seems to make its way to the top, Land Rover, Cadillac, and Lincoln’s decision to get the ball rolling for tall four-wheel drive status symbols seems to be one of the more impactful moves for the past decade.