German luxury carmakers BMW, Daimler accelerate charge into 'crossovers'

Written by Reuters | Frankfurt | Updated: Sep 10 2013, 07:21am hrs
German carmakers are expanding an industry charge into so-called premium crossover vehicles, seeking to tap demand for models that combine the functionality and cachet of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) with the comfort and performance of luxury cars.

BMW and Daimler, the global luxury car leaders, each plan to expand its crossover portfolio to seven vehicles by 2020, according to European supplier sources, with new entries in multiple sizes and price points. Volkswagens upscale Audi subsidiary will be nipping at their heels, with a future lineup of six crossovers, those sources added.

Nearly one in every four premium vehicles sold last year in Europe was a crossover or sport utility model, and the category continues to grow, despite concerns about size and fuel consumption, according to UK-based consultancy LMC Automotive.

Why the boom According to BMW development chief Herbert Diess, crossovers have a strong appeal and convey a certain sense of lifestyle. People want to set themselves apart from the mainstream.

Peter Fuss, a senior partner and automotive specialist in Ernst & Youngs German practice, added: Consumers want more premium quality... And crossovers have a more modern design.

The surge in new German models is part of a broader trend, as VW, BMW and Daimler reap the benefits of investing through a six-year European car market slump.

But this months Frankfurt car show will signal they are not alone in trying to grab a slice of the premium crossover market.

Britains Jaguar, now owned by Indias Tata Group, studied then-scrapped plans to develop a luxury utility vehicle more than a decade ago. Now, it is teasing a future crossover its first ever at Frankfurt with the C-X17 concept.

The wagon-like hatchback is said to be a precursor of Jaguars Q-Type, which is being jointly developed with a new compact sedan that Jaguar expects to pitch at the BMW 3 Series.

The Q-Type crossover it may also be called XQ would be targeted in 2015 at the BMW X3 and Audi Q3 crossovers, suppliers said.

Japanese brands Lexus and Infiniti, owned respectively by Toyota Motor and Nissan Motor, are trying to muscle deeper into the segment, too Lexus with its LF-NX concept, a sneak preview of the brands first compact crossover, and Nissans Q30 concept, a small hatchback that is likely to morph into a crossover


The LF-NX is expected to reach production in late 2014 or early 2015, and is likely to be offered with an optional hybrid powertrain similar to the one in the Frankfurt concept.

The Q30 concept shares underpinnings with another new entry in the sector, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which goes on sale in Europe next spring and soon after will be shipped to North America and China.

The production version of the Q30 is expected to go into production in 2015 at Nissans Sunderland plant in Britain and eventually may be built alongside the GLA at Nissans Aguascalientes plant in Mexico.

The arrival of the GLA signals an escalation of Daimlers crossover expansion. That effort is being built around two platforms, one known internally as MFA (Modular Front-drive Architecture), the other MRA (Modular Rear-drive Architecture). The smaller MFA platform that underpins the GLA and the Q30 may also be used as the base for an even smaller, lighter and less expensive Mercedes crossover in 2017 that is known inside the company simply as the Baby G.