As affluent Gen Xers and Millennials move up to luxury goods, automakers are bestowing them with compact crossovers that combine practicality, fuel economy, urban maneuverability, high-tech features and a luxury entry price.
The hope is that the new premium crossovers – selling for only a bit more than some mainstream-brand models – will get new buyers to consider a luxury vehicle. Some of the latest were unveiled at press days for the Los Angeles Auto Show. Jim Farley, Ford’s head global marketing and of Lincoln, says that affordable luxury “is a new trend.”
“It’s definitely a new area to explore for the luxury automakers,” says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds.com. She thinks they will hold special appeal for fast-rising women who are already “notorious compact crossover buyers” and whose luxury spending is rising.
Expanding their premium brands is important for automakers. The brands make up only 12 % of industry sales, but generate 50 % of profits, says Michael Bartsch, new U.S. chief of Nissan’s Infiniti brand.
Porsche already has a winner in its larger Cayenne SUV; now comes the compact Macan, which Porsche says will offer sports car-style performance and up to 400 horsepower. It arrives in the US next spring at a starting price of $49,900.
The 2015 MKC, a new model, will offer a 2.3-liter turbo for 275 hp and high-tech options that include a system that lets the MKC work itself out of tight parallel parking spaces, as well as park itself.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA, due this fall, is the crossover sibling of the about $30,000-to-start new CLA sedan. Knowing that the standard model’s 208 hp, 2-liter, four cylinder may not satisfy some young buyers, Mercedes already showed a performance AMG version boasting 355 hp.