Today I read and article in Autocar, the British car magazine/website
This article reminded me of the uproar and consternation that enveloped the automotive world surrounding the launch of the Porsche Cayenne. Remember that? It was right in the middle of the SUV boom times and to a great many of us, the ugly, not just physically ugly but emotionally ugly, shot that killed Porsche for us as enthusiasts.
So here we are today, Caterham trying to distance themselves from any mention of building and selling a SUV and Porsche introducing their second in the form of the Macan.
If Ford, GM, MB or any other large conglomerate introduced a new SUV or even plans for a new one, no one would bat an eye. What's unique here, aside from Porsche actually being a part of a huge multinational conglomerate, is that both Porsche and Caterham are sports car makers, end of story!
We of the enthusiast persuasion have a real hard time seeing and accepting "trucks" from our beloved sports car makers. The Cayenne and Macan aren't real Porsche's, they're just re-badged Audi's. Right? You're not totally wrong but not totally right either, and in the explanation is the answer.
Yes, if you're about to purchase an Audi Q7, you are getting a Cayenne chassis and vice-verse. Many parts are shared between the two models and with good effect. I do not need to explain to the readers of Oppo why the VW group shares parts and platforms. I do, at times, seem to need to explain why the Cayenne, Macan and whatever the Caterham SUV/CUV will be called, need to exist.
In the picture in the heading is a collage of vehicles that make up the majority of cars the rest of the world buys. Having said that, I'm primarily talking about America and not Europe or Asia or anywhere else.
Your average 'Joe' who is married and has kids buys a mini van, SUV/CUV or a beige plain and boring four door family sedan. They make up %90 of the annual car buying public. Yes that means you and I as enthusiasts only make up the remaining %10.
That %10 still represents a fairly large number of cars sold and most people think you can run a profitable business just in that slice of the market. Well you can, if your product is fresh, as good as or better than the competition and your costs are kept under control. That's the big ONE, your cost to produce your goods.
I work in the auto industry and have for the past few years become intimate with the numbers and processes involved in producing a car from scratch. It's one of the most complicated things to do in the world, along with being time consuming and hugely expensive.
And that leads us to why Porsche and Caterham are and will produce SUV/CUV's. The category is a money maker, plain and simple. If you love the 911 you should be thanking the buyers of the Cayenne. They made it possible for you to buy and enjoy your sports car. The same will go for Caterham, a company who's entire portfolio is based on a car first produced in 1957. Yes, that says 1957!
So while I'm not a big fan of the SUV/CUV, I understand that they are the enablers for the sports cars of the world, for as long as we continue to build cars the same way Henry Ford did in 1911. That's a story for anther day: The changing technology behind the production of the car and the materials used.
I'm disappointed in Caterham today with this 'distancing'. Just be honest, in order to keep producing great sports cars, you have to look at other segments in the market, you know, the other %90. Really would it be so bad to have the Caterham DNA and phyilosipohy put into a SUV/CUV? It worked out for Porsche.