The reign of crossovers and SUVs as the cool vehicles of choice in the U.S. and Europe is about to come to an end, some automotive executives say.
That’s because young customers are poised to rebel against the high-riding models in favor of sleek sedans to avoid being like their parents.
“The sedan is the middle finger of the future,” Nissan Senior Vice President for Global Design Alfonso Albaisa told Automotive News Europe at the Tokyo auto show last week. “It’s the tattoo of the future.”
Ivan Espinosa, Nissan's vice president for global product strategy, told ANE at the show that the automaker is seeing data that shows young people are "bored" with SUVs, making them more open to owning a sedan.
“Half of their decision is reactionary,” Albaisa said, adding that since the industry is not in a position to invent a brand new body style people will “jump back to something that was never bad."
Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson is also bullish about the sedan's future. He thinks they will benefit from increasing pressure to slash tailpipe emissions around the world.
“People who are interested in longer range cannot ignore that lower riding, more aerodynamic cars are better for this,” Samuelsson said. “Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised if those market forces cause a comeback for smaller sedans, especially if you don't need the size of an SUV.”
Volvo's belief in sedans is one of the reasons it made the S60 the debut model to roll off the line at its first U.S. factory. The Swedish automaker plans to export half of the models it produces near Charleston, S.C. A number of those models will likely end up in places where Espinosa said sedans continue to be "a symbol of success" such as China, Russia and South America.
U.S. car demand, dominated by the traditional four-door sedan, are on track to fall for a sixth straight year.
A rebound for sedans would provide relief in Europe, where sales of midsize models from mass-market brands declined 25 percent between 2015 and 2018 and demand for premium midsize vehicles fell by 18 percent during the same period.