Where's the Diversity in an Automaker's Lineup?
There was a time in most auto manufacturers' histories when car companies attempted to build a wide range of products to serve a lot of needs, and niche manufacturers, sold one type of product to one type of customer. In 2014, we've come to a point where both have met in the middle. Middle-market manufacturers sell a smaller range of products, and niche builders are increasing the number of models to steal market share. When are we going to start being able to buy vehicles that we want again? General Motors In 1968, General Motors had six brands – Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac and GMC – and within those brands were a wide range of models. Let's just take a look at Chevrolet...
In 1968, Chevrolet offered the following models in order of price:
...and that's before we get into the trucks.
PHOTOS: See Full Galleries of the 1968 Chevelle SS
Within each of those models – with the exception of the Camaro and El Camino – you had up to five distinct bodystyles, and often more:
Setting aside the trucks again, Chevrolet's product line currently includes:
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the 2014 Chevrolet SS
So Chevrolet currently makes 13 models, yet one model – the Camaro – is offered in the same choice of bodystyles it was in 1968 (coupe and convertible). The rest come in one bodystyle, and one bodystyle only.
Now take a look at Porsche. In 1968, Porsche essentially sold one car, with a choice of engines:
It came in one bodystyle, either with a solid roof, or a removable Targa top.
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the 1968 Porsche 911
In 2014, Porsche offers:
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder
The 911 is offered in coupe, convertible and the new take on the "Targa" top.
So the question is this: if a niche manufacturer like Porsche, which sold all of 158,000 cars in 2013, can deliver a lineup that comes pretty close to Chevrolet in terms of bodystyle diversity, why can't a major manufacturer like Toyota, Honda, Ford or Chevrolet start delivering cars in a wider range of bodystyles?
The interesting thing is that they do it outside this country on a regular basis. Take a look at Opel, for example. It has 17 models in a range of bodystyles including coupes, convertibles, station wagons, SUVs and even cargo vans, all built off of a common platform.
Holden – which GM recently announced it would shutter by 2017 – has 13 including the awesome Holden Ute, which Americans have been hoping would arrive here since the early 2000s.
PHOTOS: Full Galleries of the 2014 Holden Ute SS V
In some ways, it's gotten better. Chevy didn't have a Camaro for eight years, meaning it didn't have a coupe or a convertible in the lineup, either. But the fact is, one-size-fits-all platform engineering that only offers an extremely limited number of vehicles misses wide swaths of the market.
You only need to ask where all the compact trucks went to start understanding that.