Car companies may need to start curbing model proliferationMon, 17 Nov 2014 17:59:00 EST
Looking at the current automotive landscape, especially from German makers, you quickly get the impression that less definitely isn't more. BMW alone offers its 3 Series platform in practically every segment possible, including the regular sedan and 4 Series Gran Coupe, which would seem to be direct competitors. Porsche might be the winner, though, with 20 different variants of the 911 listed for sale on its US website. However, some of this model madness might be reaching an end as companies begin cutting back spending or shifting money to other priorities.
According to Yahoo Finance, the offerings from the German automakers are up 25 percent over the past three years to over 200 models in Europe. The peak is expected to come around 2018 at 230 separate vehicles, according to consulting company PwC.
Amazingly, BMW, which is among the poster children for this model explosion, might be changing its tune. "I'm sure there will be points in the future where we look at certain cars and say, 'Maybe we need to think differently now,'" said head of sales Ian Robertson in an interview, according to Yahoo Finance. The statement certainly sounds shocking coming from a company rumored to have 23 front-wheel-drive vehicles all using a single platform on the way.
The shift in thinking might not be a question of whether automakers can build all of these distinct models, but rather if it's the best way to invest their money. The small footprint of European dealers makes it difficult to show all of these vehicles off. Also, even if platforms and drivetrains are shared, there's still the extra expense in marketing each one. Finally, "every single variant increases development and logistics expenditure," said Porsche spokesperson Achim Schneider to Yahoo Finance.
So what do the German automakers do with the extra funds from not exploiting every possible niche? Volkswagen is reportedly working on cutting costs, and BMW is too. Also, Porsche is trying to grow overall sales. If this actually happens, maybe picking the perfect 911 will be a bit less complicated in just a few years.
By Chris Bruce
See also: Are you the Porsche Pajun?, 2016 Audi S6, Porsche 911 GT3 named Performance Car of the Year by Road & Track.