Things never stop changing in the automotive industry.
Evolving market demands and regulations keep automakers playing a constant game of catch up. Automakers, especially the ones that appeal to enthusiasts, have to hit a delicate balance of keeping their products innovative while not alienating or pissing off their faithful customers. Sometimes, automakers come out with a new car or technology that is a hit, while other times, traditionalists will whine and complain … and then end up buying it anyway.
Here are a few major changes that got a lot of hate when they were first announced, but ended up being huge successes.
SUVs from Sports Car Makers
Believe it or not, there was a time when sports car makers only made sports cars. That changed with the crossover boom, and when Porsche came out with the Cayenne in 2002, for example, enthusiasts were up in arms about how the German automaker was selling out and said it would lead to the company’s demise. They said a Porsche SUV was blasphemous and that they would boycott it. The Cayenne quickly went on to become the brand’s best-selling model, outselling the 911 by a huge margin and spawning the smaller and popular Macan.
Today, storied luxury sports car makers like Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and even Lamborghini either have an SUV on sale now or have one in development. They are bound to be huge sellers, which enthusiasts shouldn’t complain about because the money from those huge sales will help fund their next sports cars. Without the Cayenne and Macan, there wouldn’t be enough money to fund the development of the 918 hypercar or the 919 race car, and technology from those mega projects trickle down to the rest of Porsche’s sports car lineup, so SUVs are to thank for that.
Hybrid/Electric Sports Cars
Hybrids and green cars used to be thought of as transportation for granola-eating tree-huggers, so people generally thought hybrid/electric sports cars would make too many compromises and would ultimately fail — you can’t be green and fast at the same time, right? How things have changed. Tesla has proven that electric cars don’t have to be boring or slow, and hypercars like the LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 proved that hybridization can be used to bolster performance.
Porsche bosses say it’s possible that the 911 might be hybridized one day, the Acura NSX and BMW i8 are hybrids, and Teslas are getting faster and more powerful. There are even full-on hypercars that are fully electric, like the Rimac Concept One that outputs a combined 1,088 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque and is capable of going zero to 62 mph in just 2.6 seconds. Expect hybrid and electric sports cars to dominate in the coming years.
AWD and Turbocharged Muscle Cars
It can be argued that muscle car admirers hang on to their traditions with more force than any other group of enthusiasts. They want naturally aspirated, big-displacement, rear-wheel-drive cars that are fast in a straight line and they have historically been resistant to change.
Fast forward to today where consumers can now buy Camaros and Mustangs with turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and a Dodge Challenger with a supercharger. The Dodge Challenger will also be getting all-wheel drive in the near future, which will surely be a big hit in places that see winter weather and rain. Sales of the four-cylinder Camaros and Mustangs have been strong, despite enthusiasts blasting the seemingly “sacrilegious” engines.
Automatic Transmissions in High-Performance Cars
There was once a time when high-performance cars only came with manual transmissions in an attempt to draw in driving enthusiasts and weed out the poseurs who couldn’t drive stick. The Volkswagen Golf R, Fiat 500 Abarth and Porsche GT3 are just a few examples of cars that were previously only offered with a manual that now have an automatic transmission in their lineup. Sure, a manual is more engaging, but enthusiasts understand that many automatic transmissions are now faster than manuals and are better on gas.
Some sports cars these days only come with an automatic: The Acura NSX, Alfa Romeo 4C, Ford GT, all Lamborghinis and Ferraris, Audi R8 and the BMW M5 are just a few examples. Expect the number of manual-only sports cars to dwindle even further in the near future.
Many people are still in the camp that hates “coupe SUVs” and “four-door coupes” because coupes should only have two doors! Coupe SUVs have a raked roof design that makes them less practical versions of their donor vehicles, with less headroom, less cargo capacity, and a higher lift height. To many, their design is gaudy and the proportions are whack. Still, automakers love this trend and people continue to buy these automotive oddities. BMW and Mercedes both have coupe SUVs, Porsche is expected to jump on the bandwagon with a “coupified” Cayenne, and you can be sure that Lamborghini’s upcoming SUV will do the same.
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