El Auto Show de Detroit está lleno de coches. No de SUVs de casi 3 toneladas ni de camionetas que parecen naves espaciales, sino de los clásicos sedanes y coupés -que se exhiben como comida poco atractiva en aparador.

De los 20 o más nuevos modelos que se presentaron en el Auto Show Internacional de Norteamérica (NAIAS, por sus siglas en inglés), cerca de la mitad son pequeños.

The Kia Motors Corp. 2018 Stinger vehicle is displayed during the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. Kia Motors Corp. said its Stinger sports sedan will go on sale in the U.S. late in 2017, a decision that may help raise its profile among buyers who focus on a vehicle's speed, performance and handling. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

KIA Stinger (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

KIA lanzó un sedán de cuatro puertas de nombre Stinger; Mercedes mostró una versión coupé de sus E-Class, y Toyota presentó un Camry actualizado. Porsche, tan veloz como siempre, venció a todos cuando en octubre presentó en NY, junto con su renovado Panamera, un sedán cuatro puertas.

Singer Brenna Whitaker performs next to a Mercedes-Benz AG E-Class Coupe vehicle after being unveiled during the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. Last January, the 2016 NAIAS featured 61 vehicle introductions, a majority of which were worldwide debuts, and was attended by over 5,000 journalists from 60 countries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Mercedes-Benz E-Class (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

The Toyota Motor Corp. 2018 Camry XSE vehicle sits on display during the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. Last January, the 2016 NAIAS featured 61 vehicle introductions, a majority of which were worldwide debuts, and was attended by over 5,000 journalists from 60 countries. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Toyota Camry (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Viendo la reciente tendencia en ventas, esta emoción por los coches pequeños parece un desastre estratégico. Después de todo, la gasolina barata en Estados Unidos ha alimentado una fiebre por los SUV que ahora se expande a todo el mundo. Utilitarios, camionetas y los llamados crossovers representaron dos tercios de todos los vehículos vendidos en Estados Unidos el año pasado.

“Hay una tendencia clara a favor de las camionetas y no veo por qué tendría que detenerse”, dijo Ludwig Willisch, director ejecutivo de BMW Norteamérica.

El momentum de la locura por los SUV se fundamenta en una poderosa ingeniería. Los vehículos utilitarios solían ser una especia de trueque: a cambio de una posición de manejo más alta y un poco más de seguridad, los consumidores sacrificaban dinámica y kilometraje.

Pero los SUV actuales se fabrican casi como coches, con metales más ligeros y motores más eficientes que permiten un desempeño casi tan bueno como el de sus hermanos más pequeños, tanto en el camino como en la gasolinera.

El año pasado, solo en el mercado de autos de lujo de Estados Unidos, la venta de coches derrapó en los 172 mil vehículos, mientras que los consumidores compraron 99 mil SUV más ostentosas.

“La realidad es que tenemos una alineación de cuatro coches muy buenos, pero en un mercado que parece estar casi en caída libre”, dijo el presidente de Cadillac Johan de Nysschen.

A General Motors Co. (GM) Cadillac Escala concept vehicle sits on display during the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Last January, the 2016 NAIAS featured 61 vehicle introductions, a majority of which were worldwide debuts, and was attended by over 5,000 journalists from 60 countries. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Cadillac Escala (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Pero, ¿qué máquina futurista presentó Cadillac para deslumbrar a las masas? No un SUV, sino un relativamente grande y ostentoso sedán. Y BMW hizo lo mismo.

Los ejecutivos de autos no son estúpidos, a pesar de que el escándalo de Volkswagen y la Aztek de Pontiac lo sugieran. Pero cuando se trata de SUVs, ellos saben algo que la mayoría de nosotros no: La mayoría de los conductores compran las máquinas que las compañías quieren que compren.

New Pontiac Aztec vehicles are lined up on the lot at Cerritos Pontiac in Cerritos, Calif., Monday, Oct. 16, 2000. Photogrphaer: Susan Goldman. Bloomberg News.

Pontiac Aztec 2000 (Susan Goldman. Bloomberg News)

Últimamente, la mayoría de los nuevos modelos han sido SUVs. Los nuevos modelos se llevan la mayor parte del dinero, devoran los presupuestos de publicidad y obtienen los mejores lugares en los pisos de exhibición. En resumen, el auge de los SUV es en gran parte de auto-propagación.

“Definitivamente tiene algo del asunto del huevo y la gallina”, dijo Drew Slaven, vicepresidente de mercadotecnia de Mercedes-Benz USA.

Pero allá abajo en las trincheras, las cosas están empezando a cambiar. Los distribuidores de Mercedes le pidieron recientemente a la compañía “quitar el pie del acelerador” en el mercadeo de los SUV, dijo Slaven. En el stand de exhibición de Mercedes en Detroit esta semana, menos de un tercio de los vehículos eran crossovers o utilitarios.

La mayoría de los ejecutivos no esperan que el coche tradicional tenga un regreso impactante, al menos no por ahora. Cadillac se está apresurando para tener un SUV ligero, por ejemplo, mientras que los diseñadores de BMW trabajando en una más grande.

Lo que sí esperan es una desaceleración del declive de las ventas de sedanes y coupés, sobre todo porque cualquier aumento en los precios de las gasolina podría darles un empujón como ya ocurriera a mediados de los 2000.

Y sobre todo (independientemente de la geopolítica), los conductores que quieran diferenciarse eventualmente abandonarán los SUV. Como aquellos que compraron Jeeps en los 80 y Ford Explorers en los 90, los gustos algunas veces simplemente cambian.

A pair of Audi AG A4 T Quattro automobiles, produced by Volkswagen AG (VW), sit on display during previews to IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. The Frankfurt International Motor Show starts on Thursday, and nearly one million visitors are expected to view the latest must-have vehicles and motoring technology from over 1,000 exhibitors in a space equivalent to 33 soccer fields. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Audi A4 (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

“Siempre hay una fluctuación”, dijo Scott Keogh, presidente de Audi America, cuyo músculo de mercadotecnia ayudo el año pasado a que su A4 fuera la excepción a la regla de los SUV con un aumento de 15.3 por ciento en sus ventas.

“Vendrá una generación que dirá: ‘El coche que tenía mi padre era un SUV y el SUV era el coche de ese banquero presumido”.

 

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