Cars and Concepts

Future Product: German brands race to update crossovers, SUVs

German luxury brands face an existential challenge: adapting to a U.S. market increasingly dominated by SUVs and crossovers while keeping their stylish sedans relevant.

These days, light trucks are outselling cars in the U.S. by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, and volume automakers are reconfiguring their product lineups accordingly. But the adjustment is more difficult for the German luxury makes, historically known for their top-drawer sedans.

"Mercedes, BMW and Audi still consider sedans their halo vehicles," said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst with Kelley Blue Book. "But in the United States, an SUV is as much of a halo vehicle as a sedan."

In the U.S., at least, the Germans are responding by accelerating the modernization of their product portfolios. BMW is doing an across-the-board makeover of its crossover lineup with major redesigns planned for its X3, X4 and X5 lines, the new X2 having arrived this spring and the long-awaited X7 due next year.

Mercedes plans new or updated crossovers and SUVs in each model segment over the next five years.

Meanwhile, Audi is extending its lineup, with plans for a new five-seat crossover, the Q8, late this year and the new full-electric e-tron Quattro crossover arriving next year.

You can reach Urvaksh Karkaria at ukarkaria@crain.com -- Follow Urvaksh on Twitter: @urvaksh

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