Remember the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet? This US-only soft-top SUV was something of a sales disaster – the result of its design being pushed through by Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn.
The failure of that model taught car manufacturers that launching a niche model for the sake of filling a niche didn’t work, and that even if the design is spot on, an SUV must still drive like an SUV – even with its top down.
And yet the idea of an open-top SUV refuses to go away, with Jaguar Land Rover preparing to launch its Range Rover Evoque Convertible next month. Full-scale wire models of the soft-top Evoque were shown off in London this week, targeting the kind of urban customers that Land Rover is hoping will opt for its niche-within-a-niche SUV.
What makes the Evoque Convertible different to the ill-fated Murano, of course, is branding. Jaguar Land Rover is seen as being a vibrant premium marque, and as such a quirky SUV is exactly the sort of thing it should be making.
And yet, I wonder where this SUV expansion will end. Nissan may believe there are still spaces and sizes to explore in this market, but as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen all continue to launch new SUVs, the industry is in danger of over-catering for the market.