The number of models produced by each car manufacturer increased over years, modular platforms allow car markers to produce a large number of models with little cost, creating new niches to cater different types of buyers. But is this really necessary? How long this trend can continue until they realize that have too many models?
A funny text from jalopnik.com: If you make a saloon on a platform, and a wagon on a platform, why not make a crossover? Why not make a slightly sportier version of that crossover? Why not make a really sporty version of that crossover? Why not make a coupé version of that crossover? Why not make a slightly sporty version of that coupé version of that crossover based on the saloon? Why not make a really sporty version of the slightly sporty version of that coupé version of that crossover based on the saloon?
Too many niches?
During 1960s and 1970s, Fiat was the manufacturer with largest lineup of models, ranging from the mini Fiat 500 to the large Fiat 130, plus a lot of coupé and spider models. Presently, the premium German automakers, Mercedes and BMW are fighting each other to have the largest lineup of models. Japanese automakers, especially Toyota, also produce a large number of models, but they form separate lineups for each region of the world.
Mercedes introduced A-Class in 1997, a very small and tall car, then introduced B-Class in 2005 as compact tall hatchback, however the 3rd generation A-Class introduced in 2012 became 454 mm longer and 160 mm longer, making it a regular hatchback, while B-Class remains a tall hatchback, additionally introduced CLA and GLA in 2013, making Mercedes to have 4 models in compact segment. Was this really necessary?
Off-road cars are produced since pre-WW2 times but they were not popular except for army use, as most them featuring open body and wooden seats. The first SUV (vehicle with off-road abilities and comfort of a car) was Range Rover (1970) and it remained the only SUV in Europe for 2 decades. Was followed by Land Rover Discovery (1989), Opel Frontera (1991) and Ford Maverick (1993). Number of SUV models increased dramatically after 2000. BMW having 4 SUV and crossovers in the year 2009.
BMW introduced the first crossover, SUV with coupé-style roof, X6 in 2006, followed by a coupé-style liftback, 5 Gran Turismo in 2009. Audi joined the niche with A7 Sportback in 2010. Mercedes joined the niche with GLE Coupé in 2015.
Mercedes introduced first sporty saloon, or 4-door coupé, CLS in 2004, also added an estate version, CLS Shooting Brake in 2012.
How many models and niches they have now? See in the following table, showing years they covered each niche.
|Small hatchback||A-Class (1997-2012)||A2 (2000-2005)
|Compact hatchback||A-Class (2012-)||1-Series (2004-)||A3 (1996-)|
|Compact saloon||CLA-Class (2013-)||A3 Limousine (2013-)|
|Compact estate||CLA-Class Shooting Brake (2015-)|
|Compact coupé||1-Series Coupé (2007-2014)
2-Series Coupé (2014-)
|Compact cabrio||1-Series Cabrio (2008-2014)
2-Series Cabrio (2015-)
|A3 Cabriolet (2008-)|
|Medium hatchback||C-Class Sportcoupé (2001-2008)
|3-Series Compact (1994-2005)|
|Medium saloon||190 (1982-1993)
|3-Series (1983-)||80 (1972-1994)
|Medium estate||C-Class T (1996-)||3-Series touring (1987-)||80 Avant (1992-1995)
A4 Avant (1995-)
|Medium estate bulky||A4 Allroad (2010-)|
|Medium coupé||C-Class Coupé (2011-)||3-Series Coupé (1975-2013)
4-Series Coupé (2013-)
A5 Coupé (2007-)
|Medium cabrio||C-Class Cabriolet (2015-)||3-Series Cabrio (1978-2014)
4-Series Cabrio (2014-)
A4 Cabrio (2002-2009)
A5 Cabrio (2009-)
|Medium liftback||3-Series GT (2013-)||A5 Sportback (2009-)|
|Medium sporty saloon||4-Series Gran Coupé (2014-)|
|Medium sporty estate|
|Large saloon||E (1960s-1993)
|5-Series (1972-)||100 (1968-1994)
|Large estate||TE (1960s)
E Class T (1993-)
|5-Series touring (1991-)||100 Avant (1977-1994)
A6 Avant (1994-)
|Large estate bulky||A6 Allroad (2000-)|
|Large coupé||CE (1960s)
E-Class Coupé (2009-)
|6-Series (1975-1989 2003-)||100 Coupé (1968-1976)|
|Large cabrio||CE (1960s)
E-Class Cabrio (2010-)
|6-Series Cabrio (2004-)|
|Large liftback||5-Series GT (2009-)||A7 Sportback (2010-)|
|Large sporty saloon||CLS-Class (2004-)||6-Series Gran Coupé (2012-)|
|Large sporty estate||CLS-Class Shooting Brake (2012-)|
|Luxury saloon||SE/SEL (1960s-1993)
|7-Series (1977-)||V8 (1988-1993)
|Luxury coupé||SEC (1981-1993)
S-Class Coupé (1993-1996)
S-Class Coupé (2014-)
|Luxury cabrio||S-Class Cabrio (upcoming)|
|Superluxury saloon||600 (1963-1981)
Maybach 57 & 62 (2002-2013)
Maybach S-Class (2015-)
|Leisure activity vehicle||Vaneo (2001-2005)
Citan Tourer (2012-)
|Compact MPV 5-seat||B-Class (2005-)||2-Series Active Tourer (2014-)|
|Compact MPV 7-seat||2-Series Gran Tourer (2015-)|
|Large MPV||V-Class (1996-2003)
|Sport compact coupé||Z1 (1989-1991)
|Sport compact roadster||SLK-Class (1996-)||TT (1990-)|
|Sport car||SL (1954-)||M1 (1978-1981)
|Supercar||SLR McLaren (2013-2010)
SLS AMG (2010-)
|Off-road vehicle||G-Wagen (1979-1993)
|Small SUV||Q2 (2016-)|
|Compact SUV||X1 (2009-)||Q3 (2011-)|
|Compact crossover||GLA-Class (2013-)||X2 (upcoming)|
|Medium SUV||GLK-Class (2008-2015)
|X3 (2003-)||Q5 (2008-)|
|Medium crossover||GLC-Class Coupé (2016-)||X4 (2014-)|
|Large SUV||M-Class (1997-2015)
|Large crossover||GLE-Class Coupé (2015-)||X6 (2008-)|
|Luxury SUV||GL-Class (2006-)||X7 (upcoming)||Q7 (2006-)|
|Luxury crossover||R-Class (2005-2013)|
Too many engine options?
Beside having too many models and body styles, we have also too many engine options and other versions. For example: Porsche 911 in its 964 generation offered 7 versions: Carrera Coupe, Cabrio, Targa, each rear wheel drive and all wheel drive, plus Turbo model. Presently Porsche 911 is offered in versions like Carrera, Carrera S, Carrera GTS, Turbo, Turbo S, GT3, GT2.
Mercedes E-Class holds the record of most engine options at same time in one model:
10 engines as 1997: 200, 240, 280, 320, 430, 55 AMG, 220 Diesel, 290 Turbodiesel, 300 Diesel, 300 Turbodiesel.
10 engines as 2003: 200 Kompressor, 240, 320, 500, 55 AMG, 200 CDI, 220 CDI, 270 CDI, 320 CDI, 400 CDI.
11 engines as 2011: 200, 250, 300, 350, 500, 63 AMG, 200 CDI, 220 CDI, 250 CDI, 300 CDI, 350 BlueTec.
Majority of them are offered rear wheel drive and all wheel drive, and further divided into trims like Comfort, Elegance, Avantgarde.