Are Midsize Coupes Dead and Buried?
Well, folks, I’m sure you’ve heard the news: Nissan is cancelling the Altima Coupe. This, I believe, will affect many of us. You, for instance, might read my opening line and think: I MUST GET ONE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. If that’s the case, I strongly suggest visiting a Nissan dealer before supplies dry up, likely sometime in early 2015.
I’d like to devote today’s column to the Altima Coupe’s unusual market segment: two-door versions of midsize sedans. But before we go there, we must cover a little Altima Coupe background. As I recall, these are the main highlights:
1. Sometime in 2007: Nissan announces they’re coming out with the Altima Coupe.
2. July 24, 2013: Nissan announced they’re cancelling the Altima Coupe.
Really, it was a very uneventful life, and I think we’d all agree that if we went on some sort of automotive quiz show where you get covered in slime if you get the question wrong, and the question was “Name all the Nissan models,” (apparently the questions can be statements too) we’d probably get covered in slime, because we’d forget the Altima Coupe, and also the Armada, which is still in production despite the best efforts of the American car-buying public.
So you’re thinking: If the Altima Coupe was so forgettable, why did Nissan even sell it? And my answer is: Yeah, why did they even sell it? Just kidding. As always, I have an opinion on the topic. My theory is that Nissan saw holes in the market left by wildly popular vehicles such as the Toyota Solara, the Pontiac Grand Am Coupe, and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and said: We must compete in this segment.
To me, the crazy thing here isn’t that Nissan decided to build the Altima Coupe in the first place. It’s that they want to cancel it. Keep in mind that this is the same company that builds asymmetrical, box-shaped compact car, a small crossover that looks like a frog, and a midsize SUV with a full soft top convertible, two rear windows, and a $43,000 base price.
In other words: if Nissan doesn’t think it can sell the Altima Coupe, then no one can sell the Altima Coupe.
And this leads me back to two-door versions of midsize sedans. Or, more specifically, to the question: is this segment completely dead?
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, what with all the discussion about the demise of midsize pickups, but midsize coupes are also dwindling in numbers. At this point, I would classify them as the Asian elephant of the automotive world in the sense that they are not yet extinct, but they will be if someone doesn’t do something.
To prove this point, I recently visited the Nissan Altima Coupe configurator, where you can compare the Altima Coupe to its rivals, and I learned that the Altima Coupe has the following rivals:
1. Honda Accord Coupe
I also learned that the Altima Coupe gets far better gas mileage than the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG, and it has way more interior room than the Audi TT, and the reason this article is so late today probably relates entirely to the fact that I wasted most of the morning comparing the Nissan Altima Coupe to expensive European luxury cars.
Anyway: with the Altima Coupe gone, the Accord Coupe is the only car left in this segment. This is a vast departure from years ago, when we had the aforementioned Solara, Grand Am Coupe, and Monte Carlo, along with the Oldsmobile Alero Coupe, the Mazda MX-6 and Ford Probe, the Mercury Cougar, the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring, and probably a few others which I’ve forgotten and therefore hope I’m not asked about on that automotive quiz show with the slime.
With only one vehicle remaining, I think the segment’s future is pretty bleak. But why? Why are people only now starting to turn their backs on two-door versions of midsize sedans? It’s not like these cars are any less practical than they were eight years ago, when a stunningly large segment of the population – which is any number more than 50 – purchased a Toyota Solara Coupe.
And maybe an even better question is: How does Honda still do it? Even with all competitors eliminated, the Accord Coupe soldiers on, providing reliable transportation for people who believe hacking two doors off an Accord sedan creates a sports car.
Basically, I’m baffled by the whole thing, and so I turn to you, TTAC, for some answers. Is this segment dead and buried? How does Honda still manage? And most importantly: why doesn’t the Nissan Altima Coupe configurator include Ferrari?
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.
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What you might end up with is more versions of compact coupes, Civic, Elantra, Kia Forte or manufacturers would take their compact model making the coupe version a bit larger straddling the difference between compact and mid-sized, think BMW 3-Series which the coupe version is now the 4-Series or the E-Class coupe which is an amalgam of E-Class and C-Class. This was done with the old Mitsubishi based Avenger/Sebring coupe which was a based on the smaller Eclipse.