During an interview at BMW’s headquarters in Munich, Ian Robertson, the company’s head of sales, mentioned that the sports-car market is almost half of what it used to be. He added that after the recession in 2008, the sports-car market collapsed and there is no certainty if it will ever recover.
Once considered as a status symbol, the sports car is seeing tough competition against SUVs and crossovers, particularly in Europe and North America. On a similar note, the hot weather, pollution as well as increasing demand for chauffeured limousines in China and emerging markets have also made sports cars less appealing to richer clients.
Despite diminishing popularity, selling cars designed for speed and performance plays a crucial role in establishing a brand’s appeal. As such, according to Robertson, BMW, which has built its name around manufacturing and selling sporty luxury cars, is collaborating with Toyota Motor Corp. for the development of a midsize sports car. Feasibility study for the said project has already been completed and is now moving towards the concept stage. Further details about the project are yet to be disclosed by the two automakers.
In Europe and North America, where sports cars such as Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz SLK and Audi TT are popular, auto markets are slowly getting back on their feet after demands hit their lowest in decades due to the global recession. Helping offset the declines is the demand in Asia where annual growth goes beyond 10 percent.
In an analysis by the IHS Automotive, it was found that the combined global sales of TT, SLK and the BMW Z4 reached their highest in 2007, selling about 114,000 units. This drastically declined by 45 percent in 2010. By the end of the decade, global sales of the aforesaid vehicles are expected to reach about 72,000 units.
Tim Urquhart, analyst at the IHS, attributed the diminishing popularity of the sports-car segment to the growing number of offerings that appeal to the kind of demographic that sports cars used to appeal to. He mentioned that younger generations of professionals now have wider range of vehicles to choose from that befit their lifestyle aside from sports cars.