There’s a picture currently doing the rounds on the internet that questions what on earth car manufacturers are playing at. For a start, there’s Land Rover setting a Nurburgring lap record with its Range Rover Sport SVR.
Then it asks why Porsche is selling 4x4s. And why Maserati is selling a diesel Ghibli. And why is the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer front-wheel drive?
Well, while it’s lovely to be able to cling onto a brand’s heritage, it’s because all these manufacturers are wanting (and most of them succeeding) to grow. Growth equals more money, the ultimate goal of any business.
Personally, I think it’s fantastic that Land Rover’s broken records with its Range Rover Sport. The fact that a company that, within my lifetime, was known for making slow, unreliable off-roaders, can now make an SUV as fast as a Porsche 911 is remarkable.
And, while things like the Camel Trophy and G4 Challenge of the past were very cool (not to mention the more recent Silk Trail), the Range Rover Sport’s intended buyers will be much more interested in the fact it can go around the Nurburgring phenomenally quick.
Sure, some would prefer Land Rover still made leaky old vehicles with leaf springs, but who would buy them? One or two people on internet forums, perhaps, but not the general public.
Let’s move on to Porsche. We’ll ignore the fact that the company’s been selling the Cayenne since 2002, and concentrate on its ‘sports car of the SUV segment’, the Macan.
When I was about 13, I was given a passenger ride in a Boxster. I loved that car – it looked great, handled amazingly well, and felt plenty fast enough to me – even with its smaller 2.7-litre engine. But when it was launched, it had a frosty reception. Was it fast enough to be a Porsche? And should a Porsche be affordable? It was like the 924 all over again.
I love the fact that you can buy a convertible Porsche for not much more than an Audi TT. And, despite being relatively ‘cheap’, it was still special enough for me to pin a photograph of one on my wall as a teenager.
Despite this love for the Boxster, when I headed over to Germany for a passenger ride in the Macan in December, I had my reservations. Would it basically be an Audi Q5 with a Porsche badge? Was Porsche really selling out, hungry for a slice of the Evoque’s cake?
A quick blat around a test track and I was converted. The Macan is every bit the sports car SUV, and Porsche deserves to be praised for managing to pull it off. So apologies for getting on my soap box, but for someone on the internet who probably hasn’t even been near the Macan to question Porsche’s motives, you’re wrong. Very, very, wrong.
Sure, Porsche will make a lot of money out of the Macan. It plans to sell 50,000 of them a year, and has extended its Leipzig factory to do this. But this isn’t Porsche simply cashing in – it’s a brand that car enthusiasts love doing something technically brilliant and raising some cash to fund some no-doubt bonkers pure sports cars in the future for people like us.
Do you think Porsche could survive simply selling 911s? Possibly, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near the company it is today.
Oh – and to quickly address the other points made in the picture…
- Maserati’s selling a diesel Ghibli because it would never be taken seriously by company car drivers (the intended market) if it was powered by a fuel-guzzling petrol V8. Get with the times
- The BMW 2-Series Active Tourer is front-wheel drive because most MPV buyers don’t know nor care which wheels are driven (and BMW’s done an excellent job, according to CJ)
- I agree that the Fiat 500L isn’t a looker, but people are buying it. Fiat needs as many sales as it can get at the moment, and if it means selling a frumpy 500 then so be it
- Why does the MINI weigh over 1.4 tonnes? Because it’s getting bigger. Deal with it. It’s still a good car, but whatever BMW did with the MINI, the purists will never like it. Tough – it sells well
- What’s the Audi TTQ? I guess you’re referring to the offroad concept shown at Beijing. Take a car with the desirability of the Audi TT and turn it into a crossover? Yeah, what is Audi thinking? It’ll never sell…
- And if Jeep entered Le Mans? Personally, I’d love it if the company famous for its go-anywhere ability gave Audi a run for its money at La Sarthe
If manufacturers didn’t change with the times, we wouldn’t have the enormously popular Nissan Qashqai, Skoda would still be a joke, and the world wouldn’t be currently raving about the BMW i8. Change is awesome.