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Are any manufacturers making money with traditional cars?


#1

I read often these days that such-and-such manufacturer is scaling down or ending production of traditional non-SUV cars due to low profitability, but I’m curious whether there is any indication that some manufacturers are managing to turn enough of a profit to not have this be an immediate concern? Looking at volume producers here, not luxury. Are we going to end up with survival of the fittest in the car market (in terms of production efficiency and sales), or is everyone going to quit on cars?


#2

Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Mazda still sell oodles of cars. 2/3 Teslas are sedans. BMW. Mercedes.


#3

Any Japanese automaker (Except Mitsubishi)
Any German automaker
Some high-end luxury car manufacturers
Some sports car makers
Some supercar makers


#4

http://www.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html

I’m not going to pretend to understand much of that, but it looks like except for a few brands/models the car market is shrinking.

Toyota/Honda have had a solid following for a long time due to their long term reliability.


#5

image
(Ford’s sales over the years)


(Honda)

Of course manufacterers are still making money from traditional cars, as they are some of the best selling, The Toyota Camry/Corolla, Honda Civic/Accord are still among the best selling cars in America, however it’s quite easy to see that the market for these “traditional” cars are rapidly deteriorating while SUVs and trucks grow in popularity. Any business person with sense would pursue the growing market rather than the declining one. Espically as global automotive sales have peaked and markets will only become narrower. Production lines, no matter how much money they make, need to be scaled back to accommodate less demand, and we have recently seen combined SUV/Truck sales surpass traditional car sales in the past 5 years, and this is a trend we will likely only see continue into the future.

Of course, as is clearly obvious, 5 million+ cars is still a LOT of money to be made, So if your concern is all companies within the next 5 years following in Ford’s footsteps and flat out cancelling their traditional sedan lineups, I cannot say I see that happening as an individual speaking. However long term I do see the need for these cars to either appeal to the new trends in the market (as ford has done with the focus) and “crossover-ify” so to speak, or be slowly eased into obsolescence as with the dinosaurs of the old car world such as the Crown Victoria.


#6

Semi-OT but if we’re strictly speaking of the NA market they won’t be getting the Focus Active either anymore due to the recent tariffs and low-ish predicted sales. But yes Ford is doing this Active trim outside NA for models like the Ka+ and Fiesta as well.


#7

Another reason why passenger cars are falling out of favor in North America is the fact that fuel tends to be cheaper there than in Europe. And it’s not the only region where cheap fuel is killing the market for conventional cars - the Australian new-vehicle market is also dominated by SUVs and light trucks for that exact reason:

Surely something can be done to disincentivize SUV and light truck sales, particularly in these two markets, just to prevent regular cars from disappearing entirely from sale? There are still many valid reasons why you’d trade in an SUV, crossover or truck for an actual car - reasons which are unfortunately being increasingly ignored:


#8

Etc, etc.
I got back from a holiday cruise to New Caledonia 2 days ago, and they’re paying around US $1.22/ US Gal for petrol… every single drop of which they import… while driving around in their litte dinky frog-mobiles. Either they get all of their petrol from Australia/New Zealand, or the French government have completely forgotten to tax them… option 3 is the shipping of fuel to remote Pacific islands costs negative money :thinking:


#9

Okay, unpopular opinion time.

BUT!

Yes this comes with a VERY big BUT

The reason crossovers are better is because of one simple question you have to ask yourself:

How traditional are “traditional” cars really?


Apart from the basic shape, traditional cars have strayed very far from their roots. I am going to break this down using an unquestionably traditional car as an example. Granted, my 1967 Pontiac is huge by European standards but I guarantee everything I am about to say will still be applicable.

What do you notice about the front seat here?

That’s right! No massive center console that takes up way too much space. You can get in on the passenger side of the vehicle if you want and slide your way over to the driver seat. Also without that center console, your leg room is SOOOOOOOOOO much better because you can extend your feet out instead of just forward.

Notice the door position as well. Now this is a two-door car and sure the rear passengers have a somewhat harder time getting in and out but, how often do you actually have more than just yourself and maybe one other friend? I know that scenario thralls in comparison to all the times I’ve been alone driving to and from work. Honestly, four doors is one of those “illusory functionality” things; most people really don’t need it very often.

But more to the point here, where I am going with that is that in order to get into this car, you open and door, sit down backwards onto the side of the seat, and spin yourself around into position. It’s easy to get in and out of!

No leveraging yourself out of a sunken seat and past a door pillar using the steering wheel. No cramped dimensions and extraneous features everywhere that make it so your feet are always getting caught on something.

What do you notice about the windows in this car? They’re HUGE. And the pillars are tiny! You can actually SEE out of this car. You don’t need a rear view camera to back up. Can’t say that for modern cars.

Also note how the rear seats angle UP! What that does is make to so the passenger’s whole thigh is supported by the seat and makes it so their height partially distributed longitudinally. Which means even a 1.8+ m tall guy like myself has enough head room in the back. And the seats somehow manage to be no thicker than modern seats but are twice as forgiving. I know safety regulations yada yada yada.

I am sorry. I don’t buy that. Every singe car I sit in these days has foam 15 cm thick AT LEAST that compresses at most 1 cm under my full weight.

What. The. Fuck!?

Oh and get this! This car even has power seats! And yet somehow, if you’re in the back, you can still stick your feet under the driver’s seat comfortably.

Now let me think here. In my experience, the rear seats – or, hell seats in general – of modern “traditional” cars always seem like they are overengineered, a compete afterthough, or both.

And here is yet something else! This is the entire dash cluster of this car minus the fancy shmancy AM radio. Not kidding.

From left to right you have:

  • Joystick for adjusting the mirror
  • Lights. Pull switch
  • Wipers. Turn switch
  • Gear indicator attached to column shifter
  • Vent selector. Turn switch
  • Hot to cold selector. Turn switch

How simple is that? Very.

As for some of the qualitative aspects you can’t observe from pictures:

  • It rides very nice. Suspension tuning is wonderfully comfortable
  • Its not quiet, but its not noisy either. You hear exactly what you need to: A little bit of wind; a clearly audible but by no means deafening exhaust note; an occasional bump in the road; and of course other cars around you.
  • Even despite the rise of plastics in the 1960s, and yes that is true, and yes this car’s interior features a good deal of plastic, everything is still nice to touch.

Now given everything I just enumerated above, how do modern “traditional” cars compare? And yes these are broad strokes, I am aware:

  • Center consoles and extraneous bits everywhere inhibiting interior mobility
  • Door positioning, pillar size, and seat design make entry and egress difficult
  • 2 door variants of regular cars are dead or trapped under ice
  • Rising window lines, huge pillars (again), and small windows make visibility terrible
  • Seats are overengineered and still somehow manage to be mediocre for just sitting
  • Leg room is a dwindling luxury due to any number of things including but not limited to aforementioned over-engineered seats and bad or forced design choices.
  • Dash clusters are as complicated as those of an aircraft or spaceship and are half as useful for what they are actually supposed to do.
  • User interfaces both real and virtual (i.e. knobs & buttons and infotainment displays, respectively) are abysmal.
  • Suspensions have forgotten how to be comfortable
  • Cars are either dead quiet to the point of being dangerous (and so we start artificially making engine sounds and such) or are noisy shitboxes
  • Build quality and human factors engineering seem to be lost arts for anything less than $50,000

AND GRANTED!

Some of those things apply to crossovers as well BUT at least with crossovers you get:

  • Better seating positions and better visibility
  • Better interior mobility
  • More interior room and by extension more leg room
  • Easier entry and egress
  • Additional ride height and generally softer suspension turnings in crossovers make for a better ride.
  • Same or better cargo space to an equivalent “traditional” car
  • Most come with at least optional AWD. And are you seriously going to argue that its crappy or something!? Its STILL AWD!!

Sorry guys. Its time we really face this. Traditional cars are better only in a narrow category of things that won’t sell to most people, things like fuel economy and handling. Hell even size isn’t really an advantage anymore with things like the HR-V, Encore / Mokka, EcoSport, and CH-R on the market.

If we really want the “traditional” car to stick around, we need to make it actually TRADITIONAL again:

  • Column shifter automatics need to come so that we can…
  • Slim down the center consoles
  • Styling needs to stop getting in the way of function
  • Safety regulations need to either be reworked or relaxed
  • Seats need to be more comfortable
  • User interfaces HAVE to get better. Oh god. Please.
  • More generally Human factors engineering absolutely positively MUST take the forefront of design
    • No more toy dollar store luxuries if it means encroaching on real luxuries like leg and headroom
  • AWD needs to no longer be consigned to Subarus and luxury cars.
  • And I’m just throwing this out here: electrics.
    • Lower maintenance costs.
    • No vibration.
    • Smoother acceleration.
    • Stupidly low operation costs
    • Even despite heavy batteries still the same weight
    • VERY easy to manufacture with AWD and still improve interior room

Yeah man. We have to make electrics viable. As I am writing this I am steadily coming to the conclusion that electrics are what will save the “traditional” car.


AND! /Rant

Sorry for wall of text but this has been banging around in the dude’s head for a while and I needed to get it out.


#10

I agree with you on three advantages of Crossovers.

  • seating position
  • entry and egress
  • cargo space

All the other aspects you listed all come down to an individual level. Crossovers suffer some very similar issues as other modern cars. You cannot convince me that the this GLEC offers superior visibility in any way to an E-Wagon and the same obviously goes for the regular GLE




Even the additional height isnt really an advantage when you consider a significant number of cars on the road are the same height.
Normal sedans can have plenty of interior space and soft suspension, but the general trend in the motoring industry is to strive towards an “active”, “dynamic”, “sporty” and other lifestyle buzzwords type of image which results in cars either being needlessly sporty or going for the crossover route. Gone are the days of the Citroen BX and Vauxhall Omega, affordable family sedans/hatchbacks that were unashamedly unsporty, spacious and comfortable.


#11

Please, I am not trying to start a war here but by my reckoning, you pretty much just said the same thing as me :thinking:

To Which I said:


To which I would just say, that was the whole point of my post:


Your visibility thing is the one thing I will parry back on. If you sit higher, and you do in crossovers, the same windows can offer a better view.


#12

Not if the lower sill of your windows is as high as the roof on many conventional cars. That is some serious blind spot.

To which I can only say that there is no such thing as a traditional car, since the way people build cars is always evolving. Regarding height Crossovers are actually more traditional than cars. Until the 1960s or so when the american “lower-wider-longer” methodology of car styling became commonplace most conventionally sized cars were usually way taller than they have been in the following decades.

Crossovers combine the height and terrible rear visibility of a 1946 Ford, the optimized space utilization, aerodynamics and fuel efficiency of an Audi 80 TDI, and a rugged and adventurous appearance hiding a safe and predictable character that perfectly represents the mindset of a common car buyer.

Which means that you are actually right and that Crossovers are indeed better than traditional cars. I shall stand corrected.


#13

So we car argue about the precise definition of “traditional” but that is missing the forest for the trees and exactly why I tied everything I said to a real life example. That way its not so much make a car “traditional” – whatever that means – as, make a car like this again.

Also are you being sarcastic or not with that last bit? Because that’s some dangerously ambiguous sarcasm if so. And rather patronizing. I could do without that.

But if you’re not sarcastic, then, yes I agree so what are we even arguing about?


#14

My 2 cents on this: crossovers will be all the rage until the next thing rolls into scene. And then people will ask themselves who “killed” the crossover, praising it the same way it’s been with the station wagon and so on.

Anyways, brands still making plenty of “traditional” cars: Peugeot, Renault, Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota, Chevrolet, Fiat, Dodge, VW (+Skoda, Seat, Audi etc), BMW, Mercedes… the list is still long and the somewhat “neutral” formula of the traditional car will never die cause it’s not only car enthusiasts not desiring tall lifted cars, there’s more people out there who agree with this sentiment.


#15

Seating position and entry are the main reasons that a crossover/midsized SUV is still being considered to replace my 20year old Nissan pickup. Being 6’4" (1.93m) 260lbs (117kg) many of the smaller cars I just don’t fit in, or often have to resort to gymnastics moves to get in and out, which was fine when I was younger. But now I just want something to get into and not put on.

Most likely I will get another mid-sized pickup though, they are just too practical for my rural area.

I have found that blind spots in SUV’s/crossovers to be just as bad as in modern cars.


#16

My mom got her 2015 Honda CR-V for the combination of extra cargo space, higher seating position, and better gas mileage than an SUV. Not a bad car, but not something I would buy myself. Although I do like Honda’s CVT. But yeah, without the rear view camera, backing out would be near impossible (still a large blind spot even with it).

If I do get a newer car, it’ll be a compact or subcompact hatch with a stick. I might cave into my curiosity and give the 3 banger Mitsubishi Mirage a shot. I also like the styling on the old Chevy Spark and Hyundai Accent (I’ve already driven the Accent, albeit in auto).