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Automakers swerve into SUV boom lane

2014-03-06 08:23

BABY SUV ON THE WAY: The Porsche Macan will arrive in South Africa later in 2014. Image: Newspress


GENEVA, Switzerland - Huge or compact, affordable or off-the-scale pricey... There are many SUVs on display at the 2014 Geneva auto show as luxury automakers dive into this lucrative and booming market.

One of the stars of the show is Porsche's new Macan, which made it global debut. The Macan, derived from the Indonesian word for tiger, will arrive in South Africa later in 2014.

Porsche sales and marketing boss Bernhard Maier told AFP: "The uptake is already very, very strong. It's better than we expected." The automaker reports that in Germany, deliveries would take about six months.


Once known only as a sports car maker, Porsche has led the charge of luxury automaker’s seeking to grab a slice of the booming SUV segment. After showing the way just over a decade ago with its Cayenne, which today accounts for more than half of the automaker’s sales, the brand has moved on to its baby sister.

The compact SUV will reach European showrooms in April 2014 with an asking price equivalent to R880 000.

As it moves into this new segment Porsche, maker of the iconic 911, is broadening its range and appears to be on a steady course towards selling 200 000 vehicles a year. About 50 000 Macans will pour from the factory in Leipzig, Germany, each year, though its asking price is more than the basic versions of its German rival offerings - Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK.


Growing faster than any other segment, the new and compact, luxury SUVs have a knack of drawing in younger buyers who have yet to develop brand loyalty.

German car industry analyst Stefan Bratzel told AFP: "The example of Porsche shows that there is also a demand for a new type of car within the luxury segment."

He hailed the automaker for "managing to transmit the aura of its brand to other types of vehicles" by ensuring that the sports-car DNA shone through in the engine and design.

A number of other luxury brands are to follow Porsche's lead.


Bentley says it will launch an SUV for the super rich in 2016 to reach its target of doubling sales to 15 000 cars a year by 2018. Industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer said such a vehicle would likely cost the equivalent of around R2.6-million - not enough to make the target buyers in Russia, China and the Middle East wince.

Lamborghini - like Bentley and Porsche, it belongs to Volkswagen - unveiled its Urus SUV concept two years ago but is still waiting for VW to green-light the project.

Lamborghini chief Stephan Winkelmann told AFP: "The market potential would be in the US, Middle East, China and in some European markets."

Maserati has hinted its Levante luxury crossover SUV might be launched in 2015.

Rolls-Royce says it’s looking at the SUV segment but the automaker, renowned for its refined limousines, is aware that the soul of its brand might be lost in the process. Sales chief Jolyon Nash told AFP: "The SUV segment is a very interesting segment for us to look at but the big question is 'are we able to design a car that is an authentic Rolls-Royce'?"

Land Rover, which takes credit for inventing the concept of luxury 4x4's with its Range Rover decades ago, insists it's not worried by new competitors in its traditional market. Brand designer Richard Woolly stressed the automaker’s "true heritage".

Jaguar also aims to profit with its SUV concept, the C-X17, shown in South Africa earlier in 2014.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Geneva auto show.

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