Volkswagen and Opel are developing crossover vehicles to attract customers who want something between a minivan and a sedan.
VW will launch its crossover in 2008 or 2009 and position it against the Mercedes-Benz R class, supplier and company sources say. The vehicle, internally called the C-tour, will be built in VW's factory in Mosel, Germany, said a supplier source familiar with VW plans.
Such a vehicle would be the first of its kind for VW. It has the Touareg premium SUV and the Tiguan medium SUV arrives next year.
Opel model possible in 2009
Opel is developing a car similar to VW's as a top-of-the-line model that could be launched by 2009. Sources say it is likely to be a crossover or "multi-activity vehicle" that will combine characteristics of a minivan, SUV and station wagon. It is expected to debut on either GM's Epsilon 2 architecture or share the Lambda architecture with GM's Saturn brand in the US, company sources said.
"The alignment of Saturn and Opel is opening up totally new possibilities for us in the niche segments," GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said in an interview earlier this year with Automotive News Europe. "And a new large Opel can also share a platform with Saturn."
Today, the upper-medium Signum station wagon is Opel's most exclusive model.
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen could replace its Peugeot 807 and Citroen C8 large minivans with an SUV or minivan/sedan crossover similar to the Ford S-Max, sources say. Such a vehicle would be launched in 2010 or 2011.
Designs that combine minivan and sedan characteristics have had mixed sales success.
Mercedes acknowledges that its R class crossover has sold fewer units than expected. Through nine months, Mercedes has sold only 8,421 R classes, says UK-based market researcher JATO Dynamics.
But Ford has sold 20,193 S-Max units since the model's launch in April, showing that a minivan/sedan crossover can work.
Industry analysts say new models in this segment show that more automakers are using niche products to satisfy fragmenting customer demand.
Roman Mathyssek, an analyst at Global Insight, said the S-Max is a good example of a minivan "without the negative connotation of a straightforward people carrier."
Jens Meiners, Harald Hamprecht and Wim Oude Weernink contributed
You may e-mail Jason Stein at [email protected]