Executive car is a British term that refers to a car's size and is used to describe an automobile larger than a large family car. In official use, the term is adopted by EuroNCAP, a European organisation founded to test car safety.

History Edit

The term was coined in the 1960s to describe cars targeted at successful professionals and middle to senior managers, often as a company car but retaining enough performance and comfort to be desirable in their own right. Ford identified some of the higher-spec Cortina models as Executives, the 1600E Mk2 becoming something of a cult car in later years for its blend of performance and comparative luxury. The definitive Ford executive car of the 1970s and 80s was the Granada. Larger Triumphs such as the 2000 and 2500 firmly fitted into this category, as did some of the larger Vauxhall models from the VX4/90 and Ventora through to the Carlton. The definitive British executive cars of the 1960s and 1970s though remain the Rover P6 range, superseded by the modern SD1, and the Jaguar XJ6. At the bottom end of the market, executive cars could be luxury versions of family saloons; at the higher end they were often larger models by mainstream manufacturers or the entry-level models by companies specialising in larger luxury vehicles. The executive car was seen as aspirational, hence the emphasis on standing out from the crowd — but also a business tool enabling its users to exploit Britain's evolving motorway network. Early executive cars typically offered engines of between 2.0 and 3.5 litres in size, compared with 1.6 to 2.4 litres of a large family car; these days the average family saloon is more likely to be a two-litre car with executive cars generally starting at around 2.5 litres, although in some markets such as Italy and France where tax structures make large engines prohibitively expensive to own and run there are many 2.0-litre executive vehicles.

Overview Edit

Volvo S80 T6 2000

Volvo S80 - a modern executive car

Body styles Edit

In general, executive cars are 4-door sedans. Some manufacturers seek to differentiate their offerings by fitting them with spacious estate variants, or with 5-door hatchback bodies — in particular Rover, Saab, and Citroën have been known to prefer such body styles, with Ford also offering such models through the 1990s. Until the 1990s, some models were also available as 2-door coupés, though such models are often also categorized as sports cars. Some executive-car-based coupés are also marketed under different nameplates, so that the link is not obvious.

Market situation Edit

While executive cars were quite popular in Europe in the beginning of the 1970s, with most major manufacturers and brands having an entry in this category, the fuel crises hampered their sales. Some models did not achieve sales volume that would justify their development costs and have been cancelled without replacements. Gradually, the executive cars became more premium vehicles, with basic versions with less equipment and smaller engines disappearing from the market. Another problem was steep depreciation, especially concerning cars with less favorable image.

On the other hand, large family cars grew in size, being offered with larger engines (including V6 units, considered premium in Europe) and higher equipment levels, taking over the role of less premium executive cars due to still lower prices. In particular, the executive cars from mainstream manufacturers, such as Opel/Vauxhall Omega and Ford Scorpio fell victim to this trend, with the remaining models being positioned mostly as premium cars and coming from brands specializing in larger/more expensive vehicles.

Notable exceptions are French manufacturers, Citroën, Peugeot and Renault, who continue to offer executive cars despite having a lineup of vehicles starting with economy city cars and not being considered premium brands. On the other hand, a growing number of Asian manufacturers started offering executive cars, though some of them backed off facing rather slow sales.[citation needed]

Other corresponding classes Edit

Obere Mittelklasse Marktanteile Deutschland September 2009

Market shares in Germany in percent [%] in September 2009

The German equivalent is "upper-middle class (car)" (Obere Mittelklasse) within the classification maintained by Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt. Another designation for the class is "E-Klasse" (E-Class) within the classification assigning a following letter of the Latin alphabet to every class of cars arranged in size, starting with the letter "A" for city cars. Those designations are also often used in several other European countries, especially by automotive media with ties to German publications. German standards generally define such vehicles between 4.8 and 5.0 metres in length and have list prices of between EUR 25-60,000.

In France, these vehicles are known as "Grande routière," a class of comfortable long distance cars that first emerged on the French market in the 1930s. The Citroën DS is a prominent example.

In the United States and Canada, these vehicles occupy the 1 million vehicle/year Mid-luxury segment. German exports are competitive in this sector and use entry-level-luxury and mid-luxury as the base of their ranges. As has happened in the UK, the market does not reward economy brand cars that branch up into this segment. Because brand perception of value is the key selling proposition, American and Japanese manufacturers have established separate luxury brands like Cadillac, Lincoln, Infiniti, Lexus, and Acura to compete successfully in this segment.

Rental car classification segments that generally correspond with it are P (Premium) and L (Luxury), though it has to be noted that these classifications are often applied quite liberally by rental companies.

The Australian term for cars this size is simply large car size.

Cars bigger than executive in Europe Edit

A saloon car larger and/or more expensive than an executive car would be classified as a luxury car in Europe. In Germany, those cars are referred to as Oberklasse ("upper class"), or "F-Klasse".

Compact executive cars Edit

Main article: Compact executive car

Within the large family car class, premium cars such as Alfa Romeo 159, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Saab 9-3, and Volvo S60 are sometimes referred to as compact executive cars in the United Kingdom [1][2], reflecting their status, equipment amount, materials used and relative size compared to mainstream large family cars and regular executive cars. In North America, such models can be labelled entry-level luxury cars, compact or sometimes mid-size luxury cars, or alternatively near-luxury cars, though this classification depends more on price than on size.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. "Best compact executive — What Car?". What Car? Car of the Year 2006. Retrieved on 2006-08-06.
  2. "New Compact Executive". 4Car Best In Class. Retrieved on 2006-08-06.[dead link]

External links Edit

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