Where is the Automotive Industry Heading?

Once, when you wanted to buy a car, you would see that every brand tried to appeal to customers from the entry-level segment to the luxury segment. Now, however, things have changed a bit.

Previously, every mainstream brand used to have a representative in the A-segment, with models like Peugeot 106-107, Opel Agila-Adam-Karl, Volkswagen Lupo-Up. These cars were generally 3-door, with small interior space and engines, designed especially for urban use. Companies even included sport versions of these models in their product ranges. Later on, 5-door versions started to be added to their product lines due to the perceived lack of practicality. But was this the real problem?

Over time, emission restrictions increased, and safety standards were raised in the automotive sector. Producing low-end segment vehicles became financially unviable. In response to the demand for elevated vehicles, the A-segment, which traditionally catered to compact urban cars, introduced slightly elevated versions like Opel Adam Rocks. However, these models were nearly priced at the level of a higher segment. Although a few representatives of the A-segment continue to exist, the future of these cars remains uncertain. Only time will tell what will happen to these tiny urban heroes in the aftermath of the majority being phased out.

B and C segments were much more vibrant than the A segment. In these classes, brands were represented by 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks, sedans, station wagons, MPVs, coupes, and even convertible models. Many of them even had sport versions; for example, the Opel Zafira OPC was a 7-seater sports car. Initially, premium brands entered these classes to maximize profits. Then, the SUV trend began. Brands started adding SUV models, particularly to the C segment, aiming to capitalize on the growing popularity of SUVs. As a result, 3-door models, MPVs, and sports versions started losing ground. By around 2015, only 5-door hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs, and station wagons remained in the B and C segments. Brands introduced their last sporty versions, but it went unnoticed. Models like the Fiesta ST, Peugeot GTI family, and Opel’s OPC family were experiencing their final moments. Eventually, they left the scene, taking their sedan counterparts with them.

Nowadays, the B segment has been largely abandoned, with only 5-door hatchbacks and SUVs remaining. In the C segment, there is room for station wagons and a handful of sedan models, with a significant portion of the sedans currently on sale belonging to the German premium trio. So, what happened to lead to this situation?

Certainly, the costs of manufacturing automobiles have increased, and consumer preferences have evolved. However, why do people opt for SUVs, knowing they are less fuel-efficient? The answer is complex, but in short, the comfort and sense of security that come with increased height play a role. The idea is that the higher you drive from the ground, the higher your social status.

The SUV trend was so powerful that it influenced even the D segment, affecting sedans in this class. Non-premium brands began to withdraw from this segment, similar to how they had previously exited the E segment. The Volkswagen Passat is now only available as a station wagon, and the upcoming generation of the Opel Insignia will continue as an SUV. Citroen C5 has taken two different paths by adding Aircross and X tags to signify the end. Similar to the disappearance of models like Peugeot 607 and Citroen C6 years ago, non-premium vehicles are departing from the D segment. Premium brands in the D segment continue to produce sedan models. Moreover, if these premium brands are of German origin, their product ranges include SUVs, coupes, station wagons, and elevated station wagons.

Sports cars also began to disappear with increasing emissions and noise regulations. Cars are becoming hybrid and electrified. We are in safer and more comfortable cars now, but do they make us feel as happy as before? Can we experience the same feelings in new vehicles that we experience in sports vehicles with low-power naturally aspirated engines? Were the days better when the things that protected you while driving on the road with the sound of that engine were not electronic safety aids but your driving skills, or the days when we had environmentally friendly cars that comply with the restrictions that reduce your chances of having an accident and increase your chances of surviving an accident?

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