Playing Armchair Product Planner With 11 Brands
Playing “armchair product planner” for a favorite automaker is a long-running game for automotive enthusiasts everywhere, and it’s one we’re revisiting here. While ignoring inconvenient realities such as prohibitive investment costs, limited market interest, and safety regulations, enthusiasts are free to formulate their ideal lineup. From a coupe-like Mazda6 sedan to a Jaguar XJ-based crossover, our picks span the North American market. So take a look at our not-always-realistic automotive picks and then be sure to tell us: If you were a product planner, what vehicle would you introduce at your favorite automaker?
Mazda6 coupe-like sedan
A coupe-like Mazda6 sedan variant isn’t actually that much of a stretch. As recently as October 2014, we reported that a Mazda6 coupe might be in the works (a sketch of what that car could look like is shown here). Considering Mazda already experimented with half-doors on the RX-8, why not try it again with a coupe-like Mazda6 four-door?
Audi A3 Allroad
The Audi A3 debuted in the U.S. as a sedan because the automaker figured there would be greater interest than for the upcoming four-door hatch. In Europe, the expansive A3 lineup already includes four body styles (coupe, sedan, two-door hatch, four-door hatch). An Allroad-style four-door hatch could be just the thing to get Americans to care about hatchbacks again, especially if it came in well under the current Allroad’s $43,325 MSRP including destination. The 2016 Audi A3 TDI Sportback is shown here.
Lexus Minivan with AWD
The idea of a Lexus minivan was suggested early last year, and we wonder if such a vehicle might work in some markets. The Sienna (pictured) is the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, and a higher-profit Lexus version of that vehicle could simply have a more powerful iteration of the ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6, the engine already under the hood of the popular ES 350 and RX 350. Lexus is hungry to take back its U.S. luxury-brand sales crown this year or in 2016. Could the marginal volume of a Lexus-badged people-mover be worth the brand’s resources?
Volvo XC90 Extended Wheelbase
We like the new 2016 Volvo XC90 and can imagine the crossover’s high-class interior taken one step further in an extended-wheelbase model, with the third row stripped out in favor of a more spacious second row. Even though Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson recently told us that “mastering complexity is more important than striving for margin,” once the newness of the XC90 is gone, a stretched XC90 could serve as a great flagship model.
Nissan Versa-based SUV
And on the other side of the SUV market, a Versa-based crossover could make sense. The Versa sedan and Versa Note hatch (pictured) are a popular duo in the subcompact segment. A Versa-based crossover could grab customers put off by the Juke’s polarizing styling, as well as those who want a sub-$20,000 crossover like the Jeep Renegade.
Chevrolet Camaro-based four-door
With GM’s Australian subsidiary Holden ceasing production in Australia by the end of 2017, the future of the Chevrolet SS, which is based on the Holden VF Commodore, is uncertain. Holden has hinted that there will be a next-generation Commodore-badged vehicle, but we’re wondering if Chevrolet’s next low-volume four-door performance flagship could be a redesigned version of the next-gen Camaro.
Ford S-Max as next-generation Flex
The Flex has served Ford well in attracting buyers who otherwise wouldn’t have considered a Ford-branded vehicle. As that three-row crossover nears the end of its lifecycle, we can’t help but think a revised version of the European S-Max people-mover could make an intriguing next-gen Flex. The Ford S-Max Vignale concept is shown here.
Whether you call it a Cross-Soul, Soul-X, or something else, a Soul-based crossover makes a lot of sense if executed well. Existing Soul buyers who want something with even more crossover appeal could stick with something familiar; take another peek at the Trail’ster concept shown above for an idea of what such a vehicle might look like.
Jaguar XJ-based SUV
Jaguar might be focused on the upcoming F-Pace for now, but we’d love to see how well an XJ-based SUV would perform in the U.S. market, alongside the highest-trim Mercedes-Benz GLs, soon-to-arrive Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce’s “high-bodied car,” the extended-wheelbase Range Rover, and other super-high-end luxury SUVs.
Toyota Prius X
As a potential Prius V replacement down the road, a Prius X could offer similar interior space and efficiency, but with available all-wheel drive. Considering the three-row, V-6-based Highlander Hybrid starts at nearly $50,000, it could be argued that there’s room in Toyota‘s lineup for such a vehicle. The 2015 Toyota Prius V is shown here.
Explorer-based Lincoln MKT
If the next-gen Ford Flex morphed into a modified European-derived S-Max, how about using the Explorer as the basis for the next-gen MKT? Sure, it wouldn’t be as spacious, but with MKT sales numbering 4,800 units in all of 2014 (the next-lowest-selling model was the MKS sedan at 8,160 units), perhaps any change would be a good one to attract more families to the crossover.