By on November 18, 2014

porsche-macan-2013-la-auto-show-11

With as many plentiful lineups as the eye can see, consumers are beginning to feel overwhelmed, as are the manufacturers who are coming to realize that too many choices are just as bad as offering too few.

Yahoo Finance reports automakers like Porsche, Audi and BMW are reaching a point where their respective lineups may soon — if not already — overlap themselves, prompting consumers to go as far as to use Excel just to find the exact model and array of features they desire.

Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast the growth among German automakers would peak at 230 total models in 2018, then begin to flatten out as they cut production costs and improve differentiation among their portfolios, while also injecting what they sell with the latest technologies available at the time.

However, while automakers like Porsche and PSA Peugeot Citroën are implementing caps or drastically cutting down their offerings, others, such as Mercedes-Benz and Opel, plan to add more vehicles to their lineups. The expansions could lead to situations where models can only be seen in virtual showrooms — such as what has happened for BMW — as well as most consumers walking away from buying any vehicle or feeling less satisfied with the one they do buy, due to feeling overwhelmed.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

78 Comments on “Expanding Portfolios Overwhelm Automakers, Consumers Alike...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Porsche, Audi and BMW are reaching a point where their respective lineups may soon — if not already — overlap themselves”

    Nah, because they forgot to add MB.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I was wondering when THIS problem would rear its ugly head; after all, it’s one reason we no longer have Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Plymouth. Each of those brands were cut because they were in their way too much like their corporate sisters and diluting the brand. Now it’s too many similar models within any ONE brand. The expense of engineering and assembling such a wide variety of same-class/type cars has to be ridiculous!

    Ok, I understand CUVs are very popular right now. They’re so popular that people are already looking for alternatives that don’t look like clones of other brands. Far-out styling of models like the Nissan Juke is grabbing attention simply BECAUSE it’s so different. Sure, it’s a niche car, but it’s the niche cars that catch the eye–at least until that same eye falls on the window sticker.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The difference is the Germans don’t set-up an entire division to come out with a slightly altered variation of an existing platform

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      You remind me of the Audi commercial that is out now where they make fun of all the people who own beige Lexus RXes. The climax of the commercial is the kid turning around and gazing at his parent’s Q5 – which is grey. Then they show an Oscar Wilde quote: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
      It’s a ridiculous statement, like saying, “Don’t buy a Camry, be different, buy an Accord!”

      What strikes me about that commercial is how much the Q5 looks like the RX.

      http://youtu.be/soJs3ZUYtLI

      • 0 avatar

        In my area, the Q5 (specifically the 2013-present refreshed one) is probably more popular than the RX. I still don’t subscribe to the idea that buying a popular car is unimaginative or lazy thinking. The RX is a damn fine car—especially for its target clients—and so is the Q5.

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      On the plus side, the number of cars that offer manual transmissions and seat four adults are growing smaller every year, so my next car purchase will be very easy.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Yeah. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is one of the few 5-seater cars where the automatic transmission is still an option.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        Honda and VW still have a good lineup of manual transmission passenger cars. If you want a crossover Jeep may be able to help you out, but they’re about it.

        There’s still a good selection of C segment cars available with three pedals, but I wonder how much longer that will be true.

    • 0 avatar

      Saturn itself started off strong, with one basic car, which looked sporty, and cornered flat (at least if you bought the dual overhead cam version, which I did), and yet was economical. They sold nearly 300,000 units one year. Years later, when they’d dumbed the original saturn down, and were trying hard to be all things to all people, with several other equally uninspiring models, they couldn’t come anywhere near selling 300,000 units. Details here:
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-saturn/

    • 0 avatar
      insalted42

      Agreed, except that Saturn, at least for most of the 90s, was probably the most unique and independent of any of GM’s brands. At least before infighting among GMs brands around the turn of the century forced Saturn to stop operating outside the corporate norms and forced it to become the Geo of the 21st century rebadging GMs euro-market cars.

      The other three, though, pretty much all stopped being relevant when tiered product marketing became defunct in the late 70s.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Great book about this issues is titled ‘Paradox of Choice.’

    When Sergei Federov first arrived in the U.S. to play for the Detroit Red Wings, after defecting from the former U.S.S.R., he went to the store with his assistant to shop for basic stuff like shampoo and food, and he had a panic attack and had to leave the store in a hurry. He literally could not comprehend or filter the number of brands and filter the choices he had to make. It was overwhelming to him.

    He told Mitch Albom later on that ‘in the Soviet Union, we had one shampoo, one soap. No decision making was necessary. Now I had to dedicate time to making choices on the most trivial of things. There were 40 or 50 different shampoos, plus 30 conditioners. It was completely foreign, as if I had landed on a different planet, and it was stressful and overwhelming.’

    It took him years to even find his comfort zone. The whole team would laugh because whent he Soviet players did spend their money, aside from necessities like homes and things like that, it was on bizarre things.

    • 0 avatar

      Well-known phenomenon in the field of behavioral economics.

      this is probably an oversimplification, but there are two types of people: satisficers and maximizers. The latter function well with all this choice. They go into a store, see the soap, and they say to themselves, oh, here’s some soap, I need it, I’ll buy it. The maximizers, on the other hand, obsess over which brand will be just right for them.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      DeadWeight, that reminded me of the Soviet pilot who defected with his MiG25 and landed in Japan.

      He was also faced with the paradox of choice in a free society. IIRC, he got so homesick he eventually went back to the USSR.

      America also returned the MiG25 to the Soviets, after the Americans took it apart, inspected how it was made, and put it into crates for shipping.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Great book about this issues is titled “aradox of Choice.”

    When Sergei Federov first arrived in the U.S. to play for the Detroit Red Wings, after defecting from the former U.S.S.R., he went to the store with his assistant to shop for basic stuff like shampoo and food, and he had a panic attack and had to leave the store in a hurry. He literally could not comprehend or filter the number of brands and filter the choices he had to make. It was overwhelming to him.

    He told Mitch Albom later on that ‘in the Soviet Union, we had one shampoo, one soap. No decision making was necessary. Now I had to dedicate time to making choices on the most trivial of things. There were 40 or 50 different shampoos, plus 30 conditioners. It was completely foreign, as if I had landed on a different planet, and it was stressful and overwhelming.’

    It took him years to even find his comfort zone. The whole team would laugh because when the Soviet players did spend their money, aside from necessities like homes and things like that, it was on bizarre things.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I lost another post to Ditech!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    He told Mitch Albom later on that ‘in the Soviet Union, we had one shampoo, one soap. No decision making was necessary. Now I had to dedicate time to making choices on the most trivial of things. There were 40 or 50 different shampoos, plus 30 conditioners. It was completely foreign, as if I had landed on a different planet, and it was stressful and overwhelming.”

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      This was first part that was deleted:

      Paradox of choice.

      When Sergei Federov first arrived in the U.S. to play for the Detroit Red Wings, after defecting from the former U.S.S.R., he went to the store with his assistant to shop for basic stuff like shampoo and food, and he had a panic attack and had to leave the store in a hurry.

      He literally could not comprehend or filter the number of brands and filter the choices he had to make. It was overwhelming to him.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      There is an active research field devoted to this topic, I’ve read a little bit of it and it’s very interesting. Additional choices reduce consumer satisfaction in two significant ways: first, the initial choice requires orienting yourself against all of the available products and then distinguishing what you need and want against what’s offered (sometimes leading to “analysis paralysis”) and second, after you’ve selected and paid for your choice, you are tormented by the thought that you’ve somehow missed something and chosen a sub-optimal product. It’s a catch-22 for the consumer.

      Along those lines, how many of you were given choices as young children? For example, I’ve seen parents rattling off 3-4 drink choices and 3-4 snack choices for toddlers expecting them to make some sort of decision. In my opinion, this is nonsense and it inculcates a false sense of decision authority which in turn leads to a proliferation of choices in “the market” because choices are expected.

      Fundamentally, it’s a positive feedback loop that by analogy ends in an ear-piercing squeal instead of beautiful music. How much human productivity is lost to analysis paralysis and buyer’s remorse?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “after you’ve selected and paid for your choice, you are tormented by the thought that you’ve somehow missed something and chosen a sub-optimal product.”

        That’s just buyer’s remorse. It can’t go away. It’s a pretty natural thing after any large purchase.

        I agree on giving children all these options though. It’s ridiculous and a waste of time in those situations. This or that – two options is plenty when you already know what your kids like anyway. Now, if you’re at home and you want to spend three hours showing your kids new things, that’s fine. But don’t make everyone else wait for your annoying kids.

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          “That’s just buyer’s remorse. It can’t go away.”

          It can’t go away, but it can be moderated. Several studies have shown that the amount of remorse increases in direct proportion to the number of available choices. However, no one mfr has much of an incentive to reduce the number of choices.

  • avatar
    Beemernator

    X3, X4, X5, X6, 3GT, 5GT, 3-series estate or 5-series estate? And then the options list awaits. So many choices.

    Heck with it, let’s get an RX350 and be done with it.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    This is especially an issue because the person there to help you is traditionally not to be trusted and the wicked combo of high price with long term decision.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Went to the BMW dealer a month ago looking to drive an X1 xDrive35i. Well, they didn’t have one to show me, so offered to let me look at an X1 xDrive28i. That one was in the lot out back.

    We finally found it among at least 150 vehicles, but the salesman had picked the wrong key/remote. While he strolled back to get the correct one I had time to do a rough count of the inventory, a sea of differing sizes and shapes, all in non-commital colors.

    Upon his return he flipped the unlock feature on the remote before I could even see him. When he arrived I had taken a look at the uninspiring interior, and I asked him about remote start. Not available on any BMW, not even the $126,000 7 series in the showroom.

    Looking at the sea of one-off models clogging the compound, and the extreme unlikelihood that I’d ever have a chance to drive the six cylinder X1 which does not feature the new 8 speed ZF auto in the four , no availability of remote start, I told the man I was wasting his time and he mine. He seemed to agree.

    I left. If BMW make so many models without the most basic of luxury features here in the frozen north, and so many variations that a dealer cannot possibly stock all of them, then the buyer is reduced to the status of a little boy or girl picking out a Christmas toy from a catalog of pretty pictures, just like the Sears Wish Catalog from 1959. Been there, done that. Descriptions never matched the actual goods.

    So screw ’em.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      +1 That’s why I won’t buy anything until I drive a friends or rent one exactly how I would want it, because until you actually get behind the wheel and absorb the entire dynamic that the car has to offer all the stats and reviews don’t mean poop if the car just doesn’t “feel right”

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Is remote start a luxury feature? It’s only needed on cars that have poor heaters, and no heated seats/steering wheel. I’m guessing that a modern engine with an integrated water-cooled exhaust manifold and electric water pump wouldn’t need to idle for 15 minutes, even if you live in Winnipeg.

      • 0 avatar
        energetik9

        It’s a nice to have feature. Not a luxury feature. For me, certainly not a deal breaker.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Plus, I believe there is at least one state where idling your car with nobody in it, called “puffing” is illegal – Wisconsin.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I live in Wisconsin, I puff all the time. It’s 10 degrees F here today, I will be “puffing” today.

            Who are the greatest “puffers” of all? The police, ever see one of their cruisers not idling? Rarely

          • 0 avatar
            DC Bruce

            I think there are other states where it is illegal to have a car unattended with its engine running. Not owning a remote start vehicle, I’ve never thought much about it. I do know that extended idling, especially of a cold engine dumps quite a lot of crap into the air. That’s why most car manuals recommended driving away immediately after starting the engine. With the engine doing some work, it reaches operating temperature more quickly.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            By the way I read once that puffing was a regional term up there. Is that correct?

            We would just say “warming up” here in Ohio. People wouldn’t know what puffing was.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “By the way I read once that puffing was a regional term up there. Is that correct?”

            Never heard the term or of the law until today.

            Around these parts we say… “Warming up the car”

            “up there”? I’m just north of Chicago, how “up there” do you think I am?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “… if you live in Winnipeg”

        Which obviously you don’t or the midwest or the northeast, where all the modern technology of an automobile cannot make up for that initial ice cold, frosted window car first thing in the morning

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          I live in the northeast, and I do plug-in, but both my cars warm-up quickly even on the coldest days (-40 or so), and the heated seats make them bearable almost instantly.

          I do remember freezing in the family truckster as a child, but the technology’s moved-on. It took a long time for that big iron V8 to warm-up, and when it did the heat didn’t make it all the way to the back of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        I love remote start. Never asked for it, but ever since the first car that I owned with said feature, purchasing one without it since is unacceptable. Not only handy for winter, but also for hot days. Nothing like getting into a car that’s nice and cool inside (or, nice and warm inside, if you live in the snowbelt).

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        The story is that it’s illegal in Germany to idle your car unattended, so that’s why the German manufacturers don’t offer it. Not sure how much truth there is to that, though.

        Even so, the non-cell-based factory units are pretty anemic. Better to get an aftermarket solution with much longer range.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Wow, my ‘unreliable uninspired no driving dynamics might as well be an aircraft carrier’ 08′ Suburban has remote start. Still works too.

      Maybe BMW spent too much time designing the X6. They will get to the remote start once they have completed their masterpiece.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Your Suburban needs remote start, see my comment above. It’s got a big ole iron-block V8 and a barn-sized interior. The X1 is a fraction of the size, with a modern engine and active heat management (not sure if all years/models have electric water pumps, but some do). It’s designed to get to operating temp as fast as possible.

        • 0 avatar
          Drewlssix

          I would like to see any proof you might have to support that claim. Particularly what the iron block dose to slow heating ( the 08 burban may have iron or alloy block) and how “advanced heat control” is supposed to make a difference?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      For a similar reason, my last two new car purchases were custom-ordered, not off-the-lot models; and it looks like my next one will be the same way.

      The interesting thing is that what I am now looking at comes with a number of “special editions” with a fairly wide variety of colors; yet when you try to find any of those ‘special editions’ on your local dealer’s inventory list, it shows the generic models in either black, grey or red.

      No longer am I a walk-in, drive-out buyer. I go in knowing what I want and if what’s on the lot doesn’t meet that criteria, then I order. If the order doesn’t come in AS ordered, I refuse the purchase and insist on as-ordered or my deposit back. So far I’ve not been unhappy with any vehicle I’ve ordered.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I believe i3 has a remote start:

      http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2014/i3/BMWi3/BMWiConnectedDrive/BMWiRemoteApp.aspx

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      Strange, at least couple years ago it was possible to buy MB, VW or BMW with factory install Webasto heater here in Europe. Webasto and Eberspächer sell their autonomous heaters also in NA, no need to start the car, can use remote, timer etc. options. Works with gas and you can buy it as aftermarket kit. http://www.eberspaecher.com/en/fuel-operated-heaters.html

  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    Since I paid $2.63/gal for regular this morning, I’ll assume the mass CUV/SUV backlash is going to be delayed further.

    Stupid trucklets

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Isnt this how the auto market works in Europe though?

  • avatar
    Fred

    This is a common problem amongst consumers. We want variety, but it confuses us.

  • avatar
    Bee

    I have been wondering the same thing back when Hyundai/Kia started expanding their offerings to include the Cadenza and K900 in addition to the Azera, Genesis and Equus. BMW around the same time then decide to fill up their line so that they could say they offered a 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 series at one point. I thought the market would become over saturated and their portfolios would be pruned…apparently everyone else jumped on the bandwagon instead.

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    You think BMW, Audi and MB are so bad? Look at Toyota’s JDM lineup (and bear in mind that other Japanese manufacturers follow a similar product strategy there, badge-engineering notwithstanding). Taking into consideration the fact that many of these models are sold in a single market of around 120M people, and that its main competitors boast an only slightly less bloated lineup, I have always found it hard to belive how offering all these models makes financial sense. Sure, the drivetrain components and basic architecture is in many cases shared, and probably so are many interior bits but it’s still hard to imagine how they cope with that. When compared to that, BMW at al’s strategy seems strangely conservative.

    In spite of that, I still believe that soon many producers will trim their product lines. Just look at what happened to custom ordering a car in the US (and, for what it’s worth, is starting to happen in Poland too, by the way). Giving the customers many options to choose from might bring you a thousand additional sales or two but it also incurs costs that cannot be amortized by having many models make use of them (machining, homologation, marketing, assembly line complication etc). There will be a point in which it will make more sense for a mainstream company to have six or seven “optimal” models + 2/3 unproven ones rather than offer 25 and hope that at least some will succeed – as that’s what I think is happening now: the reason why the Germans have such bloated lineups is because they saw that people are reluctant to buy the average, conventional sedans (and hatches and wagons in Europe) and decided to churn out as many different, niche models as they could imagine to be potentially profitable, hoping that some will catch on, and knowing full well that some will flop and will need to be discontinued in a generation or two. Sure, they will keep on trying to find new niches but I don’t believe they will do that as aggressively as they do now.

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    You think BMW, Audi and MB are so bad? Look at Toyota’s JDM lineup (and bear in mind that other Japanese manufacturers follow a similar product strategy there, badge-engineering notwithstanding). Taking into consideration the fact that many of these models are sold in a single market of around 120M people, and that its main competitors boast an only slightly less bloated lineup, I have always found it hard to belive how offering all these models makes financial sense. Sure, the drivetrain components and basic architecture is in many cases shared, and probably so are many interior bits but it’s still hard to imagine how they cope with that. When compared to that, BMW at al’s strategy seems strangely conservative.

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    You think BMW, Audi and MB are so bad? Look at Toyota’s JDM lineup (and bear in mind that other Japanese manufacturers follow a similar product strategy there, badge-engineering notwithstanding). Taking into consderation the fact that many of these models are sold in a single market of around 120M people, and that its main competitors boast an only slightly less bloated lineup, I have always found it hard to belive how offering all these models makes financial sense. Sure, the drivetrain components and basic architecture is in many cases shared, and probably so are many interior bits but it’s still hard to imagine how they cope with that. When comparedto that, BMW at al’s strategy seems strangely conservative.

    In spite of that, I still believe that soon many producers will trim their product lines. Just look at what happened to custom ordering a car in the US (and, for what it’s worth, is starting to happen in Poland too, by the way). Giving the customers many options to choose from might bring you a thousand additional sales or two but it also incurs costs that cannot be amortized by having many models make use of them (machining, homologation, marketing, assembly line complication etc). There will be a point in which it will make more sense for a mainstream company to have six or seven “optimal” models + 2/3 unproven ones rather than offer 25 and hope that at least some will succeed – as that’s what I think is happening now: the reason why the Germans have such bloated lineups is because they saw that people are reluctant to buy the average, conventional sedans (and hatches and wagons in Europe) and decided to churn out as many different, niche models as they could imagine to be potentially profitable, hoping that some will catch on, and knowing full well that some will flop and will need to be discontinued in a generation or two. Sure, they will keep on trying to find new niches but I don’t believe they will do that as aggressively as they do now.

    If it’s duplicated, then sorry for that. Seems like my posts aren’t registering properly so I keep resubmitting.

    • 0 avatar
      packardhell1

      Maybe we will eventually get back to the art of coach building, or conversion. I drive a 1990 GMC conversion van. In this case, we have GM’s foundation (engine, tranny, and rear-end still working flawlessly) and the conversion company (Gladiator) took care of the rest. All the switches and buttons work. Even the TV/VCP combo still works. So, we get GM’s powertrain know-how and a smaller company’s attention to detail when it comes to the little stuff – stuff that GM generally doesn’t do well at.

      People seem to be willing to pay a LOT for options, or to be “different.” Maybe the answer will be for manufacturers to build the foundation and let another company take care of the rest. Just a thought!

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I just find it hard to believe buyers are actually overwhelmed. No one I know is having trouble finding the car they want.

    I don’t believe for a second that manufacturers are overwhelmed. Cannibalization has been a concern ever since automobile sales started. Manufacturers know what their doing and increasing market segmentation and consumer demand will continue this trend. There is a balance point between production options, cost, and consumer demand. Manufacturers will always test this line.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. In particular, a lot of BMW, Audi, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz people seem to love the fact that they could have chosen from three different kinds of seats, seven interior colors, ten alloy-wheel sets, four steering-wheel design, and nineteen electronics packages…incurring ridiculous upcharges along the way. Even when most people just pop down to the local BMW store and pick up whichever 3-Series or X5 is in stock, they enjoy the boutique options process. And it *definitely* works for brands like MINI.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    When we were looking at cars over 2 years ago, checking out a Buick Lacrosse and trying to choose what we wanted was overwhelming with all the choices if we were going to order.

    Best thing to do is look at what each dealer that sells the model you want and choose from what they have on hand that meets 95% or so of what you want.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I think Subaru of America’s recent success has been helped by having a relatively limited lineup – the Outback/Legacy, Impreza, and Forester, plus the occasional low-volume specialty model offered for a limited number of years (Baja, Tribeca, etc.). There are some economies of scale that not every buyer realizes, such as the fact that the Impreza and Forester use the same dashboard (same for the previous-generation cars).

    Sticking with real model names has probably helped for the volume cars. Someone coming to a Subaru dealership is already fairly sure whether he or she is interested in (for example) a Forester.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    I have no problem here; if a vehicle isn’t at least 60″ tall it’s just another dangerous obstacle, not a prospective purchase.

    Granted, many can be both.

  • avatar
    Drewlssix

    It reminds me of complaints from older guys that modern parts store clerks don’t seem to know anything about the parts they sell. Not like when they were young! Ofcourse when they were young chevy made (A) car, the chevy. And a truck obviously. It’s hard to imagine that today but there was a time when a chevy was a chevy ads there was no compact mid size full size confusion. Hence the name Chevy II. Things would be a lot simpler for parts guys if there was only the Malibu and silverado like the good ol, days.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • DenverMike: This goes way beyond the border. So when you get there, would you unlock and hand them your phone for...
  • ravenuer: Re: that last pic….is that supposed to be “SNOW”, or “MONS”?
  • redapple: I used to work at a GMAD Plant. I was responsible for hood fit and fascias as well as badges and other...
  • Lorenzo: It probably doesn’t work on any car over 15 years old. What’s the average age of the typical car...
  • JMII: What is tough on the C7 is the whole torque tube situation with the clutch in front but the transmission in the...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber