Europe and America's historical ties run deep; with alliances including everything from conflict to trade and even fashion. But the Atlantic represents a huge chasm in attitudes when it comes to cars with some of Europe's most successful vehicles of the past decade failing specatacularly across the pond.
The trends are immediately obvious - three of the five best-selling vehicles in the US in 2018 were pickups, with the rest SUVs. The 'land of the free and home of the brave's' attachment to more fuel-hungry, powerful and bombastic cars is simply not reflected on the European continent, where smaller roads, lower average mileage and tighter environmental regulations mean city cars and small hatchbacks curry more favour.
Bringing the two heavyweight continents together, we have mashed up some of Europe's favourite cars, giving them a much-needed American makeover and providing them with the tools to succeed Stateside. The results are quite fascinating.
Europe's Favourite City Car - Fiat 500
In 2018, a staggering 188,000 Fiat 500’s were sold in Europe, with the car known for its economy on the road and its relative affordability. For both these reasons it's picked up plenty of traction as a young driver's first car in both the UK and it's neighbouring nations. However, the US has shunned the funky Fiat, with a measily 5,000 sold in the country.
City cars have little to no popularity in America due to their lack of space, engine size and in some cases comfort. Released in the US in 2011, sales of the car have consistently faltered, never reaching over 50,000 in a single year, however Fiat continues to persisit offering the 500 to their American audience. By its very nature, a city car must be small and mobile enough to fit into tight spaces and navigate urban roads that often were not designed for cars in the first place. This just isn't needed in America, where space is in abundance and roads typically much wider.
In order to increase their sales in the US, we strongly advise Fiat to convert their Fiat 500 into an all-American hot rod. There are many events celebrating hot rods every year across the country which often draw in large crowds and the Fiat 500’s small chassis is perfect for this adaptation.
Europe's Favourite Hatchback - Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf has been a staple of Europe’s roads for over 40 years, with the MK1 being released in 1974. If you haven't owned one yourself, you definitely know someone who has, such is the car's ubiquity on the continent. Europeans are fans of the car’s distinctive design, reliability, heritage as well as incredible efficiency. Volkswagen sold 42,000 in the US during 2018, compared to a ten-fold increase of 445,000 in Europe.
In contrast, Americans aren’t fans of hatchbacks. There are currently only five 3 door hatchbacks on sale in the American market and with more brands every month announcing that they are discontinuing production due to dwindling popularity, 5 door models are likely to be the next to go.
To counter this, we suggest the German manufacturer thinks back to the swingin' 60s and creates the “Volkswagen Woodie Wagon”. Woodie Wagons were extremely popular in 1960’s and 70’s America; essentially early estate cars that incorporated wood styling into their bodywork. We think when considering the Golf’s iconic styling and history, a timeless throwback to their heyday by Volkswagen will sell well in a crowded market. The car would cater for motorists looking for practical space, a large boot and be perfect for a Griswold Family Christmas.
Europe’s Favourite Saloon - Volkswagen Passat
A huge hit in Europe, the Passat has been a mainstay since it first rolled off the production line in 1972. As the second Volkswagen on our list, in America it lacks anything like the kind of appeal the car generates in Europe. This is most likely due to the more stylish alternatives on offer from brands deeply entrenched in American car culture such as Chevrolet, Acura and Nissan. Despite this, the Passat showed some signs of bucking the trend with a brief resurgence in 2012, where it's sales figures topped out at more than 117,000. However, this was destined not to last and in 2018, Volkswagen sold a meagre 41,000 Passat’s throughout the year in the US.
In order to succeed in America and produce anything like the sales figures seen in Europe, Volkswagen needs to leave behind the sensible styling, efficient economy and aerodynamic design. By adding tailfins, Volkswagen reintroduce a feature that was the hallmark of classic American saloon design for many years. The lowered suspension and hood ornament show the Germany automaker’s fun side – something rarely seen in European models and should help the Passat shake its stuffy image.
Europe’s Favourite Executive Car - Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The Mercedes E Class sells relatively well in the US market compared to the other cars on our list, hitting 45,000 sales in 2018. However, when comparing US sales to Europe, the German manufacturer still struggles to convince American motorists that they should choose their E Class model over their continental competitors such Acura, Infiniti, Lexus, Cadillac and Genesis – many of which consistently outsell Mercedes in the US.
Due to the executive car segment being extremely crowded in the US, Mercedes have little chance of competing on both European and American fronts with just the one model by trying to appeal to buyers in each market. The truth is, the Mercedes E Class may be a little tame for the American market and needs to stand out in order to compete.
To do this, we’ve taken inspirations from two classics: the Dodge Viper and the Chevrolet Corvette to create an E Class specially designed for the American market. We’ve kept the back seats, think Porsche 911 or Audi TT, but added distinctive side exhausts and hood and side vents to transform the E Class into an awesome American sports car, fit for all occasions.
Europe’s Favourite Coupe - Audi TT
When the Audi TT was first launched, it was greeted relatively warmly in the American market, selling 12,000 units compared to Europe’s 38,000 in 2000. In the very same year it was also nominated for the North American Car of the Year and Audi executives must have wondered if they'd finally cracked it. Since then, however, normality has been resumed and sales of the coupe have tailed off substantially in the US, despite frequent sale spikes in Europe due to new model releases.
The solution to fix the malaise? Add some American muscle. The beefy tyres, raised suspension, NASCAR-style rear spoiler, longer chassis and protruding front engine make the Audi TT perfectly placed for the American market. Muscle cars are an American institution, normally comprising of a car fitted with rear wheel drive and a powerful V8 engine. By creating an Audi TT “muscle edition”, the German marque will prove that they are serious about breaking the US market and tailoring their creations for American motorists. The Audi TT's conversion from dainty coupe to muscly beast is sure to turn a few heads across America.
Europe’s Favourite MPV - Renault Scenic
Although its sales have taken a hit due to the tidal wave of SUVs hitting the EU market, the Scenic is still Europe's favourite MPV, selling a staggering 90,680 units in 2018. But its success is extremely localised to the region and the Scenic has never actually touched down on US soil, with Renault giving the entire market a swerve in favour of countries such as China, Russia and India.
We think, with some styling tweaks, Renault can make a great success of the Scenic and their brand in the States. In fact, there's an obvious segment they should target in order to guarantee success - the pickup. Pickup trucks are one of America’s most popular motoring segments, second only to the relatively new crossover phenomena. Vehicles such as the Dodge Ram, Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator and Chevrolet Colorado are staple's of the American motoring diet, frequently commanding sales figures twice that of the standard family saloon. Opening the back of the Scenic to allow American’s to transport all the things they do (we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that is) and with raised suspension, additional headlights and a beefy bumper, this powerful design ensures there’s no scenario the Scenic pickup can't navigate with ease.