And yet the mass market brands can’t resist periodic pops at the German premium brands’ luxury car market-stranglehold.
Some seven years after the Scorpio bowed out, Ford believes it has a successful formula for a new flagship – the production version of the SAV concept car. In June, the finished car enters showrooms, wearing the S-Max badge.
As the proposed name suggests, the car is a big brother to the C-Max mini-MPV. It’s a shrunken Galaxy, but with sleeker lines and a 5+2 seating arrangement. Sources are talking up its sporty dynamics, backed by meaty engines. The launch line up will feature 144bhp 2.0-litre four and 220bhp 2.5-litre fivepot petrols, and the 134bhp 1.8-litre and 175bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesels.
Could it suffer the same fate as the Avantime? The Ford is certainly less avantgarde. And by sharing a chassis with new Galaxy and Mondeo, Ford hasn’t bet the farm on the S-Max and can massage production according to demand.
Vauxhall will be scrutinising its arch-rival’s performance. For GM has finally worked out what to do with 2003’s gorgeous Insignia concept: use its design to shape the next-generation Signum. And you guessed it: this new flagship will go head-to-head with the S-Max.
GM bosses admit that they didn’t quite get the Signum right. The flaw? A nose identical to the workmanlike Vectra, a car as aspirational as Poundstretcher. But they believe enough in the concept of a versatile, luxurious hatchback to have a second stab at the formula.
The new car will have to follow the new Vectra, which isn’t due until 2008. Vauxhall will use a stretched version of its Epsilon II platform, having ruled out a rear-wheel drive Holden base.
Two versions are planned. The standard version has a rear bench that switches between two armchairs and three perches, Signum-style. An XXL version has a longer rear overhang to accommodate two foldaway extra seats.
This flagship may even get four-wheel drive, which GM is plumbing into the next-generation Epsilon platform to help Saab keep up with the increasingly powerful Germans. Likely engines include V6 turbo petrol and 200bhp-plus diesels.
So will the sun shine on Vauxhall, or will it get its fingers burned? We must wait until 2009.