DEATH OF THE SPORTS CAR?

DEATH OF THE SPORTS CAR?

Posted by Matt Bell on 21st November 2019

Another manufacturer belies its heritage to switch to SUVs as we ponder whether the death of the sports car is imminent. 

The future of the sports car as we know it has received another hammer blow, following Alfa Romeo’s announcement that it will kill off its future performance car plan. The illustrious Italian manufacturer has long been famed for its achingly cool yet achievable sporting models, but will reportedly focus on more profitable SUVs instead.

That means plans for a mid-engined reboot of the 8C sports car have been canned, while its smaller 4C stablemate looks to have been withdrawn from sale in Europe too. The 4C’s poor sales figures means this hardly comes as a surprise, but having no sports car in the range will disappoint aficionados and remove the halo effect from the brand. Particularly disheartening is that the GTV label – a model name with a long lineage – could have reached its end. There had been plans for a new GTV coupe based on the Guilia, but these have also been cancelled.

With the Mito gone and the Giulietta hatch set to be discontinued next year, that leaves only the Guilia saloon and Stelvio SUV until two new crossovers join the line-up. One is the Tonale, Alfa’s first foray into the plug-in hybrid market, and the other is a yet-unnamed entry-level SUV.

This all comes in the wake of confirmed plans for a 50:50 merger between Alfa Romeo’s parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA. The new alliance will be the fourth-largest car-maker in the world, with the aim of pooling resources to the benefit of both parties. With new CEO Carlos Tavares known for bringing in drastic cost-cutting measures to improve profitability, Alfa Romeo’s fortunes may well improve, but it may have to succeed without the kind of cars that made it famous.

Alfa Romeo isn’t alone in a moving to SUVs, of course. MG last sold the TF in 2011, and now has only the MG3 hatch and two SUVs in its range. It’s E-Motion EV sports car may become a reality, but not until 2021 at least. Elsewhere, even Mazda’s iconic MX-5 is now some way behind its peak in terms of sales, while Toyota’s GT86 and Audi’s TT have hardly been ripping up trees – fewer than 13,000 sales globally for the TT in 2019, according to Auto Express. You can still buy sports cars, but pickings are slim when it comes to affordable options.

The sports car is not the only casualty in the current climate; as we’ve previously reported in Classic Car Buyer, the three-door hatch is now almost extinct unless you want a MINI or a Fiesta. As Top Gear presenter Chris Harris tweeted: “Alfa kills the 8C and GTV coupe to concentrate on SUV’s. The new car world is basically super/hypercars and god-awful crossovers.”

What this all means for our hobby remains to be seen. Will we embrace crossovers as classics in the future, or will the few remaining sports cars survive to become even more revered? Could we even see prices of older, more traditional sports cars rocket as the antidote to SUVs? At this stage, we can only speculate.