German premium car manufacturers have been chasing to fill in niches for what seems like decades now. On the one hand, it’s churned out runaway successes like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the BMW X6, but it’s also seen complete duds such as the Mercedes-Benz R-Class and the Maybach brand of ultra-luxurious limousines. According to Car and Driver, these kinds of experimentations are finally coming to a close.
Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz are looking to cull the amount of out-there models in the future, but the enthusiasts among you will probably be disappointed to learn that it will be the traditional two-door coupés and convertibles that will be dropped from their respective lineups first.
“The chequerboard of bodystyles and segments is rather full, although there are still a few to be finished,” said BMW head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson at the recent Geneva Motor Show. “We’ve got an X2 and an X7 coming, and there are a few others, but I also know – because we’ve taken decisions – that some bodystyles will be removed in the future.”
Robertson added that while the 4 Series (née 3 Series Coupé and Convertible) models have been successful, the company has struggled to find a market for open-top sports cars. “The segment that is not really progressing is the roadster segment,” he said. “It never really recovered after 2008, and it never picked up in Asia. Therefore we’re working with Toyota on a platform to try to gain some economies of scale.”
That partnership with Toyota will lead to a pair of new two-seater sports cars – the next-generation Toyota Supra and a successor to the ageing BMW Z4, tipped to be badged the Z5. However, larger two-door models are set to be the ones on the cusp of being eliminated.
“We’ve done the Gran Coupes – they’ve really worked,” Robertson said. “People like the lower seating position and the sporty dynamics but also the fact there’s a door in the back. It’s fair to say that when we look at the chequerboard, because of the new things we’re putting in, there are some things we can take out.”
Robertson’s counterpart at Mercedes-Benz, brand head Dieter Zetsche, echoed the former’s sentiments. “The specialty cars, these coupes and convertibles, were always niche cars,” he said. “The expansion into China and other emerging markets [has given] huge opportunities for sedans, but they did not take up these specialty cars. Which makes the business case for these vehicles less easy.”
Zetsche said that while the company will retain its two-door models, they won’t be offered “in the variety we are having them right now.” Such a move is to be expected, given that the company not only has the SLC and SL roadsters, but also coupé and cabriolet versions of the C-, E- and S-Class, along with the AMG GT coupé and roadster models at the top of the range.