Are Sport Utility Coupes here to stay?

Over the years, the trends, the tastes and the requirements of car-buyers keep changing. As a result, cars evolve as car-makers strive to meet what is needed and in vogue. Not all of those changes, it has to be said, are for the better. Some shouldn't have happened but happened anyway, some could be utterly pointless while some would be solutions to problems nobody had. A perfect example is the growing breed of Sport Utility Coupes - a fusion between a SUV and a coupe!

SUVs or Sport Utility Vehicles were conceived for a purpose. With tough body-on-frame construction designed to withstand abuse, high stance for a better view of the road ahead, spacious cabins for transporting your family, friends, their dogs and luggage and off-roading capabilities for those occasional jaunts, SUVs were the proverbial jack of many trades. Coupes, on the other hand, had a different set of criteria to satisfy. With two doors and often space for just two adults, these are cars where aesthetics and fun-to-drive characteristics took precedence over space and practicality.

Whoever thought combining these two to create a new body-style was a good idea? 

Someone from Bavaria, for sure!

Though AMC dabbled with the Eagle SX/4 in the eighties, it was BMW that started this segment-within-a-segment in 2009 with the X6. It was nothing but a X5 that had it's boot chopped off, roofline curved downwards and windows made smaller. With lesser passenger space and even lesser boot space compared to the X5 to go with it's odd looks and higher sticker price, the X6 should have flopped. It didn't. It sold well. So well, in fact, that BMW added two more smaller SUV Coupes - the X4 and X2 to the line-up. 

As is always the case with the German luxury trio, success in a new segment doesn't go unnoticed. Mercedes-Benz soon followed suit with the GLE and GLC Coupes with Audi and Porsche joining the bandwagon recently. 

While beauty lies in the eyes of the beholders, you will all agree Porsche's Cayenne Coupe is the only one from the bunch that comes across as a looker. Yes, the Audis don't look half as bad as the fugly, ill-proportioned SUV poseurs from BMW and Mercedes-Benz but the Q3 Sportback and Q8 are far from being the classy Q3 and Q7 on which they are based.

What is it with these things that make them popular? After all, they are SUVs with lesser utility and space, coupes that don't look as good or go as fast on a twisty track and expensive than their good-looking and more-capable siblings. Why isn't any of these stopping the rich folks from buying these Sport Utility Coupes in tens of thousands? I, for one, wouldn't be seen dead in one of these. Not that I can afford one, anyway.

Problem is, we are getting to a stage where these weird-looking, high-riding things are proliferating beyond being the toys of the super rich. A host of Chinese brands including Haval - that's headed to India - have Sport Utility Coupes in their line-ups. Volkswagen recently took the wraps off it's first ever, the Nivus. There are more, for sure.

Money dictates proceedings in business. And in that context, SUV Coupes are easy money for car-makers. We can all make a collective hue and cry but Sport Utility Coupes are here to stay. That leaves us with just this plea to all the car-makers around - make them Sport Utility Coupes all you want, at least get the styling right and the proportions spot-on!


Skoda Rapid Rider is shockingly good value for money

Very rarely does the launch of a new car generate as much noise and interest in the Indian market as the 'new' Skoda Rapid, launched alongside the all-new Karoq and the Superb facelift on 26th of May, has done. 

Don't let that prefix 'new' fool you though. All that's new in the Rapid is the 1.0-liter turbocharged petrol engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, the sole power-train choice on offer at the moment. The mechanicals date back to the decade-old Volkswagen Vento while the external design is carried over from the 2017 facelift.

Why all this buzz then, you wonder? "Sticker shock", that's why! For those still wondering, it's the entry-level Rider variant's price tag that has got the whole industry, the critics and the potential customers talking.

Retailing at ₹7.49 Lakhs ex-showroom Chennai, the Rapid Rider's price tag is too good to be true!

With a modern turbo petrol mill and reasonable levels of equipment, this isn't one of those outdated 'bare-bones' variant for old-timers. In fact, the Rapid Rider presents itself as a legitimate alternative to similarly-priced higher variants of premium hatchbacks and compact sedans that are not as big, not as safe (barring a few) and not as sure-footed as the Skoda. Yes, you lose out on fancy LED lights, there is no touchscreen infotainment inside (click on the image above for the list of key features) and you can only have it in Candy White or Carbon Steel shades but there is no denying the incredible value-for-money this variant offers.

Here are some interesting facts:
  • Rapid Rider is the most affordable turbo petrol car in the country. The sole turbo petrol variants of Hyundai's Grand i10 Nios and Aura as well as Volkswagen's own Polo - powered by the same 1.0-liter TSI engine as the Rapid across the range - are priced higher. All three cars are from a segment or two below. Enthusiasts out there, take note!
  • Every one of Rapid's rivals from the segment have higher starting prices. While the Hyundai Verna starts at ₹9.30 Lakhs ex-showroom Chennai, Maruti-Suzuki Ciaz, Toyota Yaris and Honda City start at ₹8.32 Lakhs, ₹8.86 Lakhs and ₹10.13 Lakhs respectively. Rapid's twin from Volkswagen - the Vento - has its entry-level variant priced at ₹8.86 Lakhs. This is in total contrast to the Octavia that's the most expensive offering in its segment.
  • Rapid Rider is priced lesser than many premium hatchbacks and compact sedans, let alone it's segment rivals. Even Maruti-Suzuki's Swift ZXi+ retails for 9,000 higher! Skoda has, quite literally, set the cat amongst the pigeons with this variant. 

So what are you waiting for? If you're in the market for a new car priced around 10 Lakhs, the Rapid Rider makes a very strong case for itself. Get one, spruce up the exteriors with some nice-looking alloys, add a touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay inside and you should be all set with still a few thousands left in your budget. Ignore this at your own peril.


Tesla creates history, becomes the world's most-valued car-maker

Who would have thought when they were founded in 2003 that Tesla would become the world's most-valued car-maker in less than two decades? Yet, here we are in 2020, amazed by the fact the American EV manufacturer surpassed Toyota, albeit for a brief period on June 10, 2020, to become the automotive brand with the highest market cap! This, ladies and gentlemen, is history being created.

Tesla's share prices have been rallying for quite some time now, as the car-maker announced successive quarters of profits after years of losing money. With prices rising above $1,000 a share, Tesla's valuation stood at a staggering $188 billion yesterday! With this, Toyota, the world's largest car-maker by volume, slipped to second position with a valuation that was just over $180 billion on the same day.

It's quite an irony Toyota invested in Tesla over a decade back and even jointly developed Battery Electric Vehicles briefly before going on to sell their stake. We can't help but think of the billions of dollars the Japanese car-maker lost by not retaining them.

Incredibly, Tesla overtook Volkswagen - valued just shy of $80 billion - just a few months ago! Is this meteoric rise of Tesla in the share market a sign of things to come?

Armed with a 'S3XY' model line-up, rapidly rising deliveries of the Model 3, the planned ramp-up of Model Y, the Semi beginning mass production end of the year and the crazy Cybertruck slated to join a couple of years down the line, you would be hard-pressed to bet against Tesla.

Here's the list of Top 10 car-makers by market cap, as of early hours June 11, 2020.

Source: reddit.com/user/brandude87

Take these stock prices with a spoonful of salt as they can, at times, be crazy. How else can you describe something that places Nikola - a start-up that hasn't manufactured a single automobile yet - at Number 11, ahead of industry biggies like Nissan, FCA and Hyundai?

Watch this space. Things could get really interesting over the next couple of years.