Everyone’s crazy about crossovers these days. Well okay, maybe not everyone…
With the motor industry rapidly coalescing towards crossovers and SUV’s, it’s tempting to view this not so much as a trend but more a new ascendancy. Furthermore, it’s also increasingly difficult to envisage it being a fleeting one. So for those amongst us who don’t relish a world filled with the confounded things, even a lone voice of dissent from within the automotive mainstream sounds a thrillingly heretical note.
I probably should preface this by saying I have nothing in principle against crossovers. Some of them, like Mazda’s CX-3 or Skoda’s Yeti are attractive and nicely executed and those I quite like. Others I view as necessary evils – that’s you, Jaguar F-Pace and some are, well, lets just say, just a bit Bentayga. What I do have a problem with is ubiquity. Having said that, I recognise crossovers answer a demand. People like cars to exude social markers they consider flattering, and crossover SUV’s appear to provide this, even though I fail to see the appeal myself largely because they offer something I neither need nor want.
If the the SUV/CUV is not quite ubiquitous, it’s well on its way, and given the format is ‘so hot right now’ it’s inevitable that everyone is jumping on the catwalk. Last year the combined S/CUV sectors accounted for around 23% of total European car sales and almost 35% in the US – analysts suggesting this could rise to 50% by 2020 should the current upward trend continue unchecked. That’s half the market in case you hadn’t noticed and I don’t know about you, but I find that vista a somewhat disturbing one.
But speaking to Autocar earlier this month, Peugeot CEO, Maxime Picat challenged the status quo, suggesting his company is looking further ahead to a post-SUV landscape. Picat’s assertion stems from two factors. First, his view that these vehicles will struggle to maintain their appeal as the industry is forced to vastly improve emissions and fuel efficiency. Secondly, he predicts that alternative bodystyles within the CUV segment simply will not sell in the volumes required. Needless to say, a third could be cynically appended – since PSA and especially Peugeot themselves are clearly massively under-represented in the format, perhaps it suits his purposes to talk down their prospects.
This isn’t to say there won’t be Peugeot CUV’s of course. Right now, Picat would be mad not to join the bandwagon and the forthcoming 3008 and 5008 models will both almost certainly line up with wider industry norms. Nevertheless the prospect of PSA actively seeking a third way rather than just marching in step with everyone else is, for those of us who despair at this rush to homogeneity, a welcome change in the narrative.
Questions remain. Picat alludes to customers who don’t want an S/CUV, but yet find saloons and hatchbacks boring, which raises the matter of what realistic alternatives are open to Peugeot stylists or indeed the design teams of their rivals, who undoubtedly have also been tasked with coming up with the next big thing? Perhaps the distinctions between bodystyles will simply have to blur further. Or will the twin hammer blows of imposed emissions regulation and autonomy render such crystal ball-gazing moot? Either way, even if Picat is correct, the concept of a post-crossover landscape isn’t necessarily going to mean more customer choice. In fact, it might even mean less.