A few years ago, just about everybody showed brave plans to bring out a two-seat sports car. BMW was developing the Z3 for South Carolina, Porsche was about to introduce the Boxster, Mercedes-Benz planned to launch the SLR and Fiat had plans.
And just about everybody else knew that they all were going to flop. All you had to do was look at the worldwide market for two-seat sports cars, and you knew immediately that there simply weren't enough customers to support all those new models.
The world production of two seaters, including the Mazda Miata, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes SL, the Porsches and others, was hundreds of thousands less in those days than what was planned for the near future.
Obviously, disaster awaited. Meanwhile, Nissan discontinued the Z; Buick had pulled the plug on the Reatta; and all the manufacturers of two seaters waited for the end of the world.
Only, it didn't happen. Moreover, all those two seaters were launched successfully. And now, not long after the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we learn that even more two seaters are coming soon from Cadillac, BMW, Honda and Nissan.
I have always believed that consumers do not establish the market. Products establish the market, and this is the perfect example.
The market for two-seat sports cars has about tripled since those earlier models were introduced, and it's going to grow more when the new models arrive.
The market will, once again, expand with new customers who simply like the new models and will forsake their sedans, pickup trucks or whatever.
Another perfect example: the explosion of the truck market. Not so long ago, the only significant vehicle in that category was a commercial pickup truck. Then along came the Chrysler minivan, followed by civilized sport-utilities, and before you knew it, the 'truck' segment was virtually half of the entire new-vehicle market. And at the Detroit show, Ford showed new sport-utility/pickup hybrids. Make no mistake: When Ford and Lincoln introduce those models, the market will expand again.
The good survive and the bad fade away. That's the way it always has been, and I don't see anything that will change it in the next century.