Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New Crossover: concept

This article follows a recent one on Volvo and the prospect that the Swedish brand will be evolving its stations to something closer to a crossover concept. Something like the future BMW PAS or F5 or V5 or whatever. The future BMW PAS (which means Progress Activity Sedan, seriously) might be the first successful vehicle of a new breed of crossovers. And I believe it will be successful because: a) it’s a BMW; b) BMW’s CEO said in an interview that this will be a volume model, not a niche like the X6; c) if properly executed it has the potential to meet several consumer needs (see more below), and d) it’s a BMW.

Recent history has told us that if BMW is working on something new then other manufacturers should prepare to react really fast. Their work on the future PAS signals that consumers might be ready to adopt a new type of crossover, one that meets several expectations: it should be lower than a SUV, more car-like, with better mileage than a SUV and less guilt factor, more eco-friendly… but still, it should provide a seating position higher than in a regular car or station and it should provide an aggressive design, an imposing stance. This last feature is important to note because it’s not the sort of thing people admit in consumer clinics.

Those features are related to a move-from-SUV consumer. But one should also cater for the move-from-station and move-from-minivan consumers. So the New Crossover should offer some utility, versatility and space, while still being frugal and adding a high seating position, a commanding view of the road, and again, the more aggressive stance. In short, all the space and utility of stations and MPVs, but with a more special design, one that moves away from a “soccer-mom” image into something a bit more distinctive.

I could analysis some technical requirements of the New Crossover now, but the most important is the availability (as an option) of AWD. This is needed to add some credibility to the move-from-SUV crowd and it could spawn more SUV-ish versions with body protections and whatnot: think the New Crossover version of an Audi allroad. Of course, many folks would not choose AWD versions since these offer less mileage and cost more, but it’s very important that the AWD is optionally available.

The most critical feature of the New Crossover is then the design. How to wrap all the features described previously in an attractive body that people WANT to buy. It’s then business as usual for the automotive industry... "Zooropa…better by design”. In following articles we will try to analyze how this concept could look like (or better yet, how it should not look like).

The BMW PAS (CGI below) will actually ressemble a bit the X6, which is a good thing.

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