The RCZ’s most high-performing variant featured a 1.6-liter THP four-cylinder engine that produced an impressive 270 horsepower and 342 lb. ft. of torque for the 2,800 lb. roadster.
Though the death of the RCZ may be unsubstantial in essence, the reasons for its disappearance are of interest. In an interview with UK-based Autocar, the head of Peugeot commented that standalone performance/sports car models were a waste of money and resources, saying
“Chasing niches is for premium brands; for us it has been a distraction.”
According to the French executive, the push to go after the performance segment doesn’t pay off at all, because development costs for standalone models are not offset, and the real profit lies in pushing high-volume bread and butter models,
“If I tell you that the 13 most important silhouettes that we sell account for 95% of all our sales and more than 100% of all our profits you will understand why this is necessary.
Now this doesn’t exactly mean that Peugeot or any other manufacturer is or should be done with producing performance models; it just means that new performance models will come as analogues of already existing volume models. For Peugeot, that means adapting their compact and mid-size platforms into performance versions,. We already saw a preview of that strategy with their 308 Hybrid R Concept last week- a 500 horsepower hatchback.
In a broader sense though, this development begs the question, does the prospect of a standalone performance platform really make any sense for volume manufacturers? Of course, for premium brands, things are different, but can it be said that the companies that manufacture our daily drivers would be better served to streamline production and just develop performance versions of existing platforms?
It doesn’t take every long to muster a list of sports cars of yesteryear that were discontinued without replacement ostensibly due to poor sales or a desire to drive bottom line sales over low-volume- the Toyota Celica, the Honda S2000, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Mazda RX8, several Pontiac/Saturn models that may have been axed anyway with their respective brands, and a variety of others I’m probably forgetting- a roll-call of the glorious dead if you will.
Even though some of the aforementioned(Honda S2000) may have sold well in their niche, their respective automakers eventually cut them, due to a desire to focus on core models that manifested in larger returns. In today’s day and age, automakers are consolidating platforms. It’s commonplace to hear of automakers announcing that they’re halving the number of global platforms in production and making more models global than regional. In an effort to streamline costs and production, the sad reality is that low volume models will likely get the ax more and more. Even in the production of the newest Toyota Supra/BMW Z roadster, the two automakers are collaborating to produce a single shared platform, likely in an effort to split development costs for a model which won’t return as much as their volume platforms.
Now there is a long list of models which will likely be “safe.” You can probably count the muscle cars from the Detroit Three, the Nissan Z-Series, and the Mazda Miata among them. And of course, we aren’t considering premium or luxury brands who can afford to fill niche markets. And there likely won’t be a total lack of performance models either, but they will build off of “normal” production versions; you don’t need our help to come up with a list of these already in production.
Though we can hope that these predictions are wrong, the drive to cut cost for volume manufacturers does seem to be driving in that direction. So as the Peugeot RCZs of the world die quietly, let this serve as food for thought.
What do you think? Do you disagree? Drop us a comment.