Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Let's Build Vehicles Nobody Wants

Korean auto shows mean that we get news from Korean auto makers.  It is only natural.  Of course, I am always a bit of a skeptic when I hear about something new or exciting coming from Hyundai or Kia.  I mean, that Kia K9 whatever is going to be sold in the United States at some point, yes?  Where’s that Miata competitor?  How far is Hyundai going up market even though they can’t even manage a decent vehicle down market?  I could keep going and going, but I mainly wanted to focus on a couple of news bits: the first is that Kia claims to be working on a competitor to the FR-S and Hyundai claims to be developing a compact pickup truck.  I have chortles.  I have never understood the need of Hyundai and Kia to build vehicles into the niche markets that nobody actually wants but maybe they are feeling a bit empowered by the Veloster, which I see everywhere.

See, I am a firm believer that the FR-S and BRZ were developed as 2+2 coupes instead of two seater convertibles because there is no “affordable, RWD, 2 seater convertible” market.  That niche is actually called “People who want Miatas” and people who want Miatas don’t want vehicles that aren’t Miatas.  There is no market there.  I am also a firm believer that the FR-S development schedule was purposely stalled to wait for the RX-8 to be off the market because that market was “People who want an RX-8”.  Now there is just the market of “People who want an FR-S”.  Why in the world would an automaker want to build a vehicle for that market?  A person who wants an FR-S is not going to buy a Kia copy of the FR-S.  The truth is that the FR-S and BRZ are not some revolutionary vehicle that is sorely needed in the market.  That market has never gone, it is just rarely explored by automakers because in truth nobody actually wants a car like that and only the most die-hard of fanboys actually buy them.  The “Affordable, small sports coupe” market doesn’t exist because every offering for it is not affordable.  Auto makers worry about not being able to actually sell the cars and thus build them in limited quantities and the result is an inflated price.  We are left with a car that is too useless to be a daily driver and too expensive to be a second car and thus only get bought by kids with disposable parental income and the most rabid of brand fanboys.  If there was actually a market for such cars then Mazda would have tried to keep the RX-8 relevant and Honda would have kept the S2000 around.

So why does Kia want to build an FR-S?  Here comes the rage…  Korea HATES Japan and they HATE that they can’t buy the FR-S because they HATE Japan.  It’s the same reason that they built the Genesis Coupe because they HATED the fact that Japan had the Skyline Coupe, they build the Genesis Sedan because they HATED the Lexus GS and they build the Equus because they HATED the Lexus LS.  You’ll notice too that Hyundai compares these vehicles to makes from other countries even though you can tell they directly benchmarked the Lexus.  They want to simply say “We are better than the Japanese.”  So Kia isn’t building their little FR-S copy because they see a market, they’re building it to thumb their nose at the Japanese.  Outside of enthusiast circles you never hear “I wish automakers would make more autocross ready, underpowered, sports coupes”.  So sure, they’ll only sell a few but surely it will sell better than the Genesis!

So that brings us to the compact truck, the market that is so dead that the kings of trucks, Ford, won’t even bother to build one anymore.  But Hyundai wants to build one, why?  Toyota does.  QED.

So the next time you see a Hyundai concept and think, “Why the hell is Hyundai building this?”  Look at Toyota, Honda, Nissan or Mazda and I bet you’ll find a niche vehicle just like it.

Have a great day.


Jessie Louthan said...

LOL you do know why Korea hates Japan so much, don't you?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are very educated on that matter.
I think you are just an ignorant hater wants to bash Koreans every chance you can.

Anonymous said...

You cray cray!

There are plenty of people that want a small sports coupe. I do. I just want it in convertible. The FRS convertible would have been perfect for me had it come out. Why?
Because there are ZERO other balanced and light 2+2 with folding rear seat convertibles on the market, and that's exactly what I want. Muscle cars are cheap and off balance, the miata cant fit a family with young kids (an FRS can just baaaaarely), and there really is no good choice. I dont need tons of horsepower. Just want a balanced car that I can connect with so I know exactly how it will react when I feel like driving aggressively... or even better... the rare day I get to track it.

There's a market for it. And while it's a small market, I think its bigger than most give it credit for.


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