Automakers, Please Stop Diluting Sports Car Nameplates With Crossovers
Published on January 22nd, 2021 | by Jennifer Sensiba
January 22nd, 2021 by Jennifer Sensiba
Automotive News recently reported that GM is planning to build an electric Corvette crossover, and it’s time we started speaking up. I get that crossovers are the automakers’ bread and butter these days, but that doesn’t mean they need to destroy iconic brands by making a crossover version of everything. There may be some short term profit in selling rebadged milquetoast crossovers to non-enthusiast buyers who don’t know better, but it’s going to alienate their biggest fans and destroy the reputation of the original vehicle in the long run.
This Won’t Be Like The Ford Mach-E
I know the first thought that will come to mind is the Ford Mach-E. Readers with a good memory will point out that I supported Ford’s choice to build a Mustang crossover, but that was only after actually seeing the amount of effort that Ford put in to make it walk, talk, and quack like a real Mustang. You see, Ford gets that you can’t just slap a nameplate on something fast and give it the name of an iconic car with a long tradition. Its new Bronco, which I’ve had some wheel-time in, looks the part well and acts the part well.
With General Motors, I’m not confident at all that it would get this right.
When GM decided to come out with a new Blazer, the company seriously dropped the ball. It made the vehicle look like a whole lot more like a sensible Toyota that Caspar Milquetoast would drive than the iconic Blazer that once competed off-road with the Ford Bronco. Its off-road capabilities are likewise trash, while Ford’s new Bronco actually has some off-road chops.
In other words, they took the opportunity to do something special and completely bombed it.
If GM repeats this performance making a “Corvette” crossover, it is dooming the whole brand. With a Corvette, people expect not just looks, but performance, and you’re not going to deliver that with a crossover. The physics just aren’t there. Ford pulled the Mach-E off by keeping the vehicle low to the ground (it’s more of a hatchback than a crossover) and being very careful to get the handling and performance right. GM is likely to rebadge an electric Buick and turn the thing into a decent vehicle, but a piss-poor Corvette.
And, like in Armageddon, note that I wouldn’t call a bad execution here a bad job. To pull a typical GM move here would be a piss poor move.
Other Automakers Aren’t Getting This Right, Either
While not in the same class as a Corvette or Mustang, and not an EV, the Eclipse Cross is another great example of “Let’s cash in on our old brand with a crossover!” thinking. What does it have in common with the sporty Eclipse coupe? It runs on gas and has four wheels.
Justin Hughes at The Drive had a great article detailing the reception it got online from Eclipse fans. It was compared to everything from a Toyota Prius to a Pontiac Aztek. There was even a hashtag fans shared: #NotMyEclipse. If they had called the
worked over minivan crossover anything but an Eclipse, it might have been well received, but the company risked the iconic Eclipse nameplate on a boring vehicle.
Mitsubishi did get one thing right after years of production. It finally decided to release a plugin hybrid version, but like Honda, it did the bonehead thing and decided to not release it in the US.
Just The Latest Symptom of the Crossover Pandemic
I know it’s unpopular to slam crossovers. People are buying them up, so they can’t be bad, right? The problem is that they are actually bad for all involved, and automakers shouldn’t be encouraging it.
The biggest problem with crossovers is that they’re inefficient compared to other options with the same seating and cargo space. Wagons sit lower, but they often have the same if not more cargo space, especially with the sloped roofs cutting away at cargo space in newer crossovers. Minivans, which share the same underpinnings, have far more space and seating capacity, and are still more efficient.
When every crossover requires 10% more gas or a 10% bigger battery to get the same range, the impacts add up.
Crossover buyers are obsessed with them because they look like SUVs, but they’re not. They lack the rigid frame of actual SUVs, and thus lack the off-road and towing capabilities. Most buyers don’t use those capabilities, so they’re not losing out, but it’s a way that automakers have preyed upon uninformed buyers instead of offering them what they are trying to buy. It’s a soft kind of fraud.
If there weren’t people getting hurt, it wouldn’t matter, but people are getting hurt. The most immediate problem is people who think all-wheel drive will save their butts from unskilled driving in the snow, and it does help them accelerate in slippery conditions. Four-wheel drive doesn’t mean four-wheel stop, though. Yes, vehicles have rear brakes, but the weight transfers mostly onto the front wheels when trying to stop, leaving crossover drivers struggling in the snow if they don’t know what they’re doing.
The large size of crossovers was also a big safety issue before backup cameras became a common offering. If I had a dollar for every person I saw struggle to move their rolling McMansion around in tight spaces in a parking lot, I wouldn’t be renting and I wouldn’t spend much time in New Mexico.
Even with cameras, people often don’t know what kind of trouble they can get into with a larger vehicle that handles much better than older SUVs did. The laws of physics can be bent a bit with better suspensions, but can’t be broken entirely. Rollover crashes aren’t increasing, mostly due to safety technology, but the share of accidents that are rollover crashes are a lot higher than they were when sedans and wagons were more popular. The number of dead from these crashes should have dropped a lot more than they did.
Let’s Be Honest. Crossovers Aren’t Cool.
Let’s be honest. People want crossovers in the US because the population is aging and fat. You’re not seeing much adventure at 350 pounds with bad knees, but the grocery runs and commute is a little easier, right? While we all want the neighbors to think we aren’t the fat people from WALL-E, most of them are in the same boat and know the truth. It’s something we just don’t want to talk about.
Don’t think we’re fatties in poor health? Just look at our recent pathetic attempt to have a civil war at the Capitol. Two died in the fighting, but another two died from a heart attack and a stroke from all the physical exertion and excitement (the fifth person who died was crushed by other rioters). We’re the country of 1776 and Don’t Tread on Me, but are too out of shape to even do that without falling over dead.
The truth is that we wanted to look like outdoor adventurers with crossovers, and now we want the prestige and cool factor of owning sports cars and super cars that we can’t fit our fat rears into. But be honest! The neighbors know that you aren’t cool, and they know that they aren’t cool, but nobody wants to admit it because that’s hard on the ego.
GM wants to cash in on our delusions, but anybody being even a little honest with themselves will know that your “Corvette” isn’t a Corvette, Fatty McGee. We are stupid to buy these phony “supercar” SUVs, and GM is stupid to sell them to us.
We should really be out actually enjoying sports and the outdoors, getting in better shape, and enjoying real cars again. When we finally do that, everyone will be able to admit that the phony crossovers were indeed phony and uncool. At that point, the original models that were copied will have lost their image and value.
Is that what the automakers really want in the long run?
PS: When I was checking this article over, I thought I saw the same picture twice when scrolling back up. I thought I had accidentally put it in twice, and I had to look twice and see that the Eclipse Cross and Blazer weren’t the same vehicle. Crossovers indeed are not cool.
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