Is This the End of the Line for Coupes?

An automotive expert weighs in

A 2019 BMW M8.

Given the pandemic and supply chain issues, it can be difficult to make too many generalizations about the current state of the automotive industry these days. Still, it does look like demand for coupes seems reduced, while interest in SUVs is increasing, even over four-door sedans. When it comes to historical models, there’s still plenty of demand, but it’s getting easier to think of coupes as the proverbial vanishing breed.

Why? One person who can offer plenty of insight is Adrian van Hooydonk, who heads the design department at BMW. In a recent interview with Autoblog, van Hooydonk offered his own take on why demand for coupes are down and where the market for SUVs might be heading.

Van Hooydonk addressed the number of vintage cars with two seats on display at the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance. “Back then, it was perfectly normal to create an incredibly complex product with only two seats. In the not-so-distant past that was still alright,” he said. “Perhaps, if you analyze each person’s life, there is this period when they want just that. Then, for most people, life progresses into something where they need four doors and the ability to carry a lot of stuff.”

While the idea of someone moving from a coupe to a sedan or SUV isn’t surprising, van Hooydonk argued that recent design developments have made things more complex. “In the past, the expectations were ‘I had this for a while, but I can’t have it any longer so now I have that,’” he told Autoblog. “Today, people want everything. They want it all, so that turned into an SUV with a sporty character, and then it turned into an SUV-coupe.”

What’s most interesting about van Hooydonk’s comments are that they don’t posit automotive design as a binary. Instead, it suggests a kind of evolution — a process that’s still in flux, and could take automakers and drivers somewhere unexpected in the years to come.

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