Sports Activity Coupe: A Niche Too Far?

At first I liked it, something very different, not seemingly practical, but cool and unexpected. I like it when a major manufacturer goes out on a limb and tries something that doesn't exist on the market and actually follows through with it. I am of course referring to the BMW X6. First displayed in 2007 as a concept at the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany. It hit the showroom floors in 2008 and immediately divided the automotive community.

Still to this day many people still look at it like me. "It looks cool, but why on earth would you purchase one?" It's like saying that you like SUV's, but not how big they are AND don't like small SUV's either. In my mind, the buyer of a vehicle like the X6 has to have some very head strong ideas about only half of their requirements of a vehicle, then be completely ignorant to the other half of said requirements. Yes, there are plenty of cars on the market that are completely useless when it comes to about 80% of what most people require from a car. But those cars are usually quite exceptional when it comes to the few things they do well; a stroll through your local Ferrarior Lamborghini dealership will highlight this point.

Sports Activity Coupe: A Niche Too Far?

BMW have chosen to see only the positive side of this divided community and release a 4 series model of the Sports Activity Coupe genre that they have created. The BMW X4 debuts this year in line with the rest of the 4 Series Coupe line up. Were the sales numbers from the X6 that convincing? Or are BMW taking the Steve Jobs and Apple approach to car sales. Where Apple would say "There's an App for that", you could tell a sales person what you're looking for in a vehicle and he would reply "There's a BMW for that".

In 2013 BMW only saw around 6,000 units sold across North America and about 8,000 across Europe. The North American Market has stayed fairly consistent since 2008 but the European market saw a whopping 19,000 units sold in 2009 with a steady decline in numbers since then, presumably as the novelty of such a vehicle wears off. The introduction of the smaller X4 seems to make a bit more sense for a vehicle of this nature but when you add Mercedes Benz with the upcoming MLC/GLC and Porsche with their Cayenne Coupe this segment is suddenly looking very crowded for the numbers that the X6 is putting up.

Sports Activity Coupe: A Niche Too Far?

Have the manufactures stopped asking us, the consumers, what we would like in a vehicle and just gone ahead, dictating to us niches that no one asked for? I can only imagine the minerals that it took the Marketing Manager at BMW to stand up in a meeting and say "Build it, and they will come". Forget about what the consumer wants, just give them more options than they thought they needed and no one will ask any questions. "Oooooh! that looks nice, I guess I do need a full size SUV that can't carry 4 people AND a set of golf clubs." Perhaps the goal of the manufactures is to no longer satisfy our desires, but to cover as many bases as possible with the least amount of platforms. Get them in to the showroom and give them zero reason to shop any other brand.

If I may, just for a second, take my "grumpy old man waving his cane at nothing in particular" hat off and look at the up side to all this. It would seem that we are now more spoiled for choice than we have ever been in the market place. There is a vehicle out there to tick nearly any sequence of boxes that you can come up with, and in the X6′s case, some that you didn't. Are you buying a vehicle based on what your eyes and your heart tell you? Or are you going in armed with a head full of logic? Seems that the grey area between these two questions is growing ever larger. Not so when it comes to the Sports Activity Coupe. I think that your logic stays safely locked up in the glove box of your current car when you go shopping for one of these.

Sports Activity Coupe: A Niche Too Far?

By Lachlan Wornes @ Road Magazine