By: Eric Weiner, 1 June 2015
U.S. demand for performance cars is steeply rising, and automakers are eager to fan the flame. Between the high profit margins; younger, more affluent buyers; and the opportunity to research and develop advanced engineering solutions, performance cars have a positive effect on the industry beyond satisfying lead-foots and track rats.
In a report from Automotive News, executives from automakers and industry analysts alike point to performance cars as a driving force for growth and development in the U.S. While European brands have consistently, and wisely, offered performance variants of their existing vehicles, domestic manufacturers have made a large and visible push in the last few years.
Not only do automakers charge considerable premiums for performance variants of their cars, but the cost to engineer such vehicles from existing models is chump change compared to the potential profits. “It’s very inexpensive to develop a performance model,” Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for research firm AutoPacific, tells AN. “The development time and the cost of tooling is far less [than the rest of the vehicle]. It's too easy to not do, too easy to ignore."
Demand for Dodge’s SRT Hellcat Charger and Challenger are hugely exceeding projections, with 9,000 orders placed as of mid-march, prompting a suspension in accepting orders. Ford’s success with the Focus and Fiesta ST has lured 65 percent of their buyers from other brands, many of whom are wealthier than the usual Ford buyer. Such good prospects made it easy for Ford to green-light the Focus RS hot hatch. Meanwhile, higher-end muscle like the Jaguar F-Type and Chevrolet Corvette continue to fly off of dealer lots.
But beyond helping automakers rake in the dough, it also helps engineers develop solutions for cutting weight and improving efficiency. There’s a trickle-down effect of advanced technology from higher-end performance cars that often find their way into more mainstream vehicles. Look no further than BMW’s Project i; while few will enjoy the pleasures of the lofty BMW i8, within closer reach are the BMW i3 electric city car and upcoming 7 Series, which both benefit from the brand’s investment in carbon fiber manufacturing.
Additionally, while performance vehicles themselves rarely offer exceptional fuel economy, their sales footprint compared to mainstream variants mean the effect on Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers isn’t too damaging.
By all accounts, demand for performance cars will keep growing. As long as engineers keep wanting to work on them, automakers keep profiting, and drivers keep enjoying them, the future looks promising. Bring it on.
Report: High Demand for Performance Cars Benefits Everyone