The solution that many automakers have come to is niche marketing, splintering what was once full-blown segments with stables of products that not so long ago sold some 400,000 units into smaller slices of the pie. Take a look at the soon-to-be-released BMW X5 4.6is, a high-performance variant of the South Carolina-built activity vehicle; Land Rover’s Freelander, a V-6-powered all-wheel-drive ute with improved highway ride that will come in two special editions, the safari-influenced Kalahari and the luxury-trimmed Kensington; or the Subaru Impreza WRX, a turbocharged sedan with all-wheel-drive rally-racing heritage and styling.
Mitsubishi RPM 7000 ConceptEnlarge Photo
Mitsubishi's wacky RPM 7000 concept has the all-wheel-drive goods
once common only to trucks.
Among the new morphmobile concepts are the Cadillac Vizon, a sleek luxury sport wagon with a SUV package; GMC’s Terracross, an aggressive SUV-themed concept that looks like it could be the dailydriver for the World Wrestling Federation with a pickup-style open cargo bed; the GM Sabia, a four-door utility coupe with a pickup bed designed for active Brazilian buyers; Toyota’s Matrix, a sporty “affordable” crossover for the young and active developed with GM that shares componentry with the Pontiac Vibe; the Volvo Adventure Concept Car, a swoopy and safe SUV wagon; the Explorer Sportsman, Ford’s upscale SUV designed for fly fishermen; Audi’s Project Steppenwolf, a small, off-road-capable coupe with quattro and height-adjustable suspension; and Mitsubishi’s RPM 7000, itself a born-to-be wild sports sedan/rally racer/SUV/thing.
Reviving SUV authenticity are the Isuzu GBX, meaning “gearbox,” with an exposed frame and modular body-on-frame construction; the Explorer EX, a supercharged dune buggy concept that looks like an ATV on steroids; and the Jeep Willys, a return to heritage with utility, versatility and nearly 100-percent recyclability, or so Jeep insists. And, looking tame by comparison is the soon-to-be-released Jeep Liberty (a Cherokee replacement that blends road manners and Rubicon-ruggedness).
The best news? There’s something for nearly everyone. Centaurs with beauty and some with beastly styling, low-riding road-huggers, and, not-to-be-forgotten, good ol’ trucks. Love em’ or hate em’, they’ll be here for a while.
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