Friday, September 13, 2013

Does Every Car Company Need an SUV in Their Lineup?

Back in the 1980's, Lamborghini built this brute, the LM002.  It was powered by a V12 developed for offshore power boats and its fuel consumption was measured in gallons per mile.  While off-road capable, it was hugely impractical, but proved to be a success just by its sheer audacity.  It was the last thing you expected out of a car company like Lamborghini... But then Lambo did make the Countach, which graced the walls of more boys' bedrooms than Farrah Fawcett, Christie Brinkley, and Joe Montana combined.

Fast forward to 2003 when Porsche launched their SUV, the Cayenne, causing the purists to howl louder than the collective roar of the air-cooled, flat 6 engines in their 911s.  Seeing how the company got its start building hot rod VW Beetles, a 5,000 lb SUV Porsche seemed asinine, but it paid off handsomely.  Not only is it the #1 selling vehicle in the Porsche lineup by a wide margin, it's also their most profitable vehicle.

Sales and profits.  It's the reason car makers are all rushing to build glorified trucks.  Earlier this year, Bentley announced it was producing an SUV.  Now this week Jaguar and Rolls Royce plan to do the same.

But does every car company need to build an SUV?  Is there really a demand for a four wheel drive Rolls or a Bentley that's really a tarted up Audi Q7?  Are the Real Housewives of the world going to discard their Cadillac Escalates and Range Rovers for a Bentley on stilts?  Are soccer moms in the mid-west going to trade in their Honda Pilots on a Range Rover based Jag?  Or is the SUV arms race the next housing bubble?

File:2006 Saab 9-7X blue rear.jpg

Not every car company strikes gold with an SUV.  For every Volvo XC90, there's a Saab 9-7x, which did nothing for Saab and only proved how shameless GM was at badge engineering mediocre vehicles.  Thankfully, when GM pulled the plug on Saab, the 9-7x was the first to go.

The only thing worse than a Saab version of the GMC Envoy is a Lincoln pick up truck.  

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