The success of the segment-busting Nissan Qashqai and Range Rover Evoque was a wake-up call to automakers. Now they are ready to push the trend to a new level.
''One of our challenges in the industry is to move away from that two-dimensional segmentation,'' Volkswagen Group Vice President of Marketing Simon Thomas told Automotive News Europe. ''What we're going to see in the future are products that will be on many dimensions not the merging of just two.''
Previously, customers who wanted a compact SUV would have to sacrifice the handling, fuel economy and practicality of a compact hatchback. The Qashqai eliminated the compromise by appealing to car buyers on those two dimensions. Today it is one of the top-selling cars in Europe.
Land Rover's Range Rover Evoque is another example of the trend. It successfully combines an SUV and a sports car. Land Rover is struggling to build enough Evoques to keep up with demand. Thomas says that these types of models, which he refers to as "bridging products," are just the beginning.
The result will be a rising number of segment-defying models.
"We will not always be able to look at a vehicle and say it's the combination of a sports car and an SUV for instance. It will have attributes from many different product groups," said Thomas, who worked at Nissan for 20 years prior to joining VW in 2011. "You won't be able to call it an MPV or a sports utility or a hatch ... You won’t be able to put a label on it or put it in a box. We will need to look at cars in the same non-segmented way as customers."