Sedans May Still Find New Life in the Future
It’s no surprise, even to the most average of consumers, why a majority of vehicles on the roads have become crossovers in recent years. Crossovers typically have better sightlines from the driver’s seat, more cargo space, better all season usability, and a perceived increase in safety over the traditional sedan. As automakers work as fast as humanly possible to crank out crossovers in every market segment, sedan lineups are shrinking, dwindling, or completely disappearing. Ford is removing all sedans from its US lineup over the next few years, FCA has a mere 2, and GM is shrinking the amount of models it has on offering as well. While its no surprise automakers are removing sedans, due to lower profitability and difficulty moving current inventory, much debate surrounds the sedan and its indefinite future.
Certain automakers still rely on sedan heavy lineups, namely the German luxury brands and the affordable Japanese offerings from Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. The US automakers have more or less waved a white flag of surrender in the sedan wars, as the competition is known for either making a better quality or more reliable sedan. It doesn’t mean US automakers can’t do it, they have simple failed to meet what the competition has brought to the table. Despite this, even those with sedans find sales falling. Some have forecasted a return to sedans in the future, calling crossovers the current trend or “fad” until the next big thing emerges. Whether or not there will be a next “big thing,” the sedan is already finding new life, and its future could come back in a far greater way than some may have been brought to believe today.
From a design and performance perspective, sedans offer the best pallet to work with in the business. Some of the industries most iconic vehicles were sedans or coupes, and there is a reason for that. Proportion wise, sedans have more to work with, the beltlines can be pulled higher or lower, the track and wheelbase can be stretched to allow a longer or wider stance, hoods and deck lids can be stretched or shortened to create the right proportions from front to rear. Where performance comes into play, the lower center of gravity and weight distribution allows for a better handling vehicle. Many of todays sedans look similar in profile due to aerodynamic purposes, but there is still a far amount of freedom for designers and engineers to modify and adjust parameters as they seem fit. Typically, rear wheel drive based vehicles have the best proportions due to drivetrain and powertrain component locations.
When you stop and examine crossovers, they are more difficult to style. They’ve lost a lot of weight in recent years, but are still heavy, mostly front wheel drive based, and lack the power and agility of a sedan. Sometimes it’s difficult to make appealing crossover designs without sacrificing usability, visibility, or other important characteristics, in sedans it is not always so. Same goes for performance, due to higher ride height and a priority set on other key factors. The end result is still evident though, the crossover does have more storage, typically, and more come available with all wheel drive.
We are already beginning to see a shift, as the newest sedans are featuring new design and functionality that mimic the best selling crossovers. Sedans are slowly getting outfitted with all wheel drive to add all season durability, and some of the more stylish offerings are adopting fastback roofs. For some, the trunk opens as a rear hatch, which helps add cargo space and functionality to the traditional sedan model without making it look like a station wagon or hatchback. Crossovers still remain the Swiss army knife of vehicle practicality and functionality, but small cues like this help make sedans more appealing today.
In addition to current work in progress, new life could be coming to sedans as vehicle lineups become all electric in the coming years. The same physics apply for an EV, all be it with a battery on the floor of the vehicle that lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity. The sedan, again lower to the ground than a crossover, weighs less, and can tweaked to have a great stance that aids the vehicle’s driving performance. Battery efficiency is the major goal of the newest EVs hitting the road, as increasing total range is still difficult and expensive. Sedans utilize the best they can by being lighter, smaller, and more aerodynamic than most crossovers. It is no surprise that the most popular, and best looking, EVs right now are Tesla’s SEDANS: the Model S and Model 3. As in today’s market, EV sedans will be cheaper than crossovers, so a more compelling case will be made in the future for more limited budgets. They also will be able to handle better, so they might be the sportier offerings for those seeking a more thrilling driving experience.
The sedan is certainly far from dead. It has been hitting many hurtles in recent years, but if the formula is done correctly, it will surely remain, in some form, in the future. Some of the sexiest concept cars we see today are still sedans and coupes, so the business model of offering sedans is far from over. Perhaps the current changes in the market will incentivize automakers to work just a bit harder to perfect the formula, as what once worked well does not anymore. It can be done, it’s just a question of how well the execution will be, and again who will be successful, and who will not.