It's a good time to be an automotive enthusiast. The small, affordable rear-wheel-drive coupe is back in style, Fiat and Alfa Romeo (soon) are back in North America, there is a healthy selection of sports cars and a multitude of sporty compacts. And that's just North America, Europe has an even wider selection of all things appealing to Jalops.
What more could we ask for? How about an econobox sending its motive power to the rear wheels.
What do we want?
Let's start off by talking about one specific brand, BMW. The Bavarians build basically everything I and many other Jalops have a hankering for. Foregoing their need to create and fill every possible niche in the automotive market, at their core they build cars that are rear wheel drive, available with a manual (the relevant ones at least) and are generally nice to drive. The problem is that they are BMWs and therefore relatively expensive (notwithstanding the usual BMW driver arguments).
Solution? A no-frills rear-wheel-drive platform for the common man. Think compact or midsize, Corolla or Camry, in both size and price. 2 or 4 doors, sedan, hatch or wagon? Any and all of the above please. This isn't a new idea of course - hell, the Corolla was once rear wheel drive - it's just a revival.
Who might have the balls to do it?
First off, this isn't a game for the luxury manufacturers. BMW, Mercedes and Lexus already (still) make primarily rear-driven vehicles but this isn't their market. This is meant for the blue-collar manufacturers and I could see an opportunity for most of them to do it; I guess I'm the optimistic type.
Scion would be a perfect place for Akio Toyoda to experiment with making Toyota exciting again. Honda has been dying in the eyes of enthusiasts for several years now; an affordable rwd car would bring a complete 180˚ to that opinion. Mazda already skews to fun-to-drive, this might be right up their alley. Hyundai and Kia are making excellent cars now, rear wheel drive could bring some excitement to their lineup. Chevy, Dodge and Ford could equally change the game and the American public would surely be receptive of some homegrown return to our roots, if you will.
As for the most likely, I don't know. I am but an armchair-enthusiast typing up my random musings.
Can it be done and would it sell?
Of course it can be done. It will be more expensive than a comparable front wheel drive car, yes, but it need not be excessively so. Heck, when Subaru can bring us a compact driving all 4 wheels for under $20K, surely the same can be done for rear wheel drive.
In short, I think it could sell. In the same way the muscle car brought affordable power to the everyman, a cheap rwd econobox could bring simple fun to the masses. The first to market would be the biggest success, especially if it takes everyone by surprise. Further down the line, maybe the segment crowds up, maybe it stays reserved to a few brave manufacturers. Who knows.
Will it ever happen?
That's probably the most relevant question and unfortunately the answer is 'probably not'. A man can dream though, can't he?
All images sourced from Wikimedia.