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BMW, Mercedes to discontinue niche models

by Ronan Glon

Coupes and convertibles are at risk.

German automakers' race to fill every conceivable market niche is over. BMW and Mercedes-Benz have separately announced plans to deep-six at least a few nameplates in the coming years.

"The specialty cars, these coupes and convertibles, were always niche cars. The expansion into China and other emerging markets [has given] huge opportunities for sedans, but they did not take up these specialty cars. Which makes the business case for these vehicles less easy," explained Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche in an interview with Car & Driver.

Ian Robertson, BMW's head of sales and marketing, echoed his rival's comments. "The checkerboard of body styles and segments is rather full," he conceded. He added that BMW is nonetheless working on a X2 and a X7, so there's still a little bit of room for expansion, but executives have already decided that some current models won't be replaced. Though he declined to provide more specific details, he singled out the convertible segment as one that is increasingly difficult to keep investing in.

That's why BMW joined forces with Toyota to develop a replacement for the Z4, which is tentatively named Z5. The global roadster segment is so small that it's becoming necessary to find a partner to split the financial burden of research and development. Without Toyota, the Z4 might have died without a successor.

It's not just coupes and convertibles that are at risk, though. An earlier report claims BMW will ax the 3 Series Gran Turismo (pictured) in order to focus on the 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is markedly more popular. Additionally, we hear the 3 Series Touring won't return to our shores after production of the current model ends. However, recent spy shots confirm the 5 Series Gran Turismo will return for a second generation before the end of the year.

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