Surprise! Not all Baby Boomers are self-centered yuppies who want to drive a 2-seat roadster into the sunset with the top down and the wind in their thinning hair.
Apparently many affluent Boomers now define luxury as the ability to share the wind-in-the-hair experience with as many people as possible: friends and family sitting in the back seat — maybe even the dog in the third row.
Whatever the reason, the popularity of bigger and more expensive sunroofs is soaring. They're found on everything from BMW AG's Mini Cooper to the Cadillac SRX cross/utility vehicle. Supplier sources say they soon will be a hot option on truck-based SUVs and pickup trucks, as well as minivans. And in many cases one big sunroof won't be enough. Expect to see two and three sunroofs per vehicle as auto makers look to the roof as a means of offering consumers more features to separate their vehicles from the rest of the pack.
Ward's first reported this trend two years ago when Mercedes-Benz was shocked to learn that buyers of its C-Class sports coupe (which at the time had a base price under $26,000) were ordering its “panorama” sliding sunroof at twice the expected rate: 60% instead of 30%. The roof retails for $2,700 as part of a package that included leather interior and a Bose sound system.
Now such roofs are popping up all over on new vehicles. BMW offers one on its X3 CUV, which is just coming to market, and Nissan offers big, long skylights on its Quest minivan and Maxima sedan.
Cadillac is the latest auto maker to be struggling to meet demand for its giant $1,800 “UltraView” sunroof, which exposes a 5.6 ft.-long (1.7-m) opening to the sky over the first- and second-row seats.
“We scheduled the UltraView roof at 40%, and demand is more like 80%,” says Cadillac General Manager Mark LaNeve.
The UltraView is prominently featured in SRX television and print advertising and was planned to be a major feature of the vehicle during its conception, says Jay Spenchian, Cadillac global marketing director.
“When we first started talking about (the SRX), people thought it (the huge sunroof) would be a unique way of giving this vehicle more of a ‘wow.’”
And that, Spenchian says, is exactly what's happening. “One thing we've heard from dealers is everybody comes in looking for that roof,” he says. “It's one thing to see it on TV, but another to sit in the second row with (potential buyers) and hear them say ‘wow.’”
Spenchian doesn't have detailed psychographic data on the appeal of the big sunroof, but he says the SRX is intended to be practical and fun-to-drive, and having a big, open roof contributes to that. “It's almost the feeling of driving a roadster (in front). In the second row, you look forward and get this feeling of openness and exhilaration.”
Cadillac expected buyers of the V-8 version of the SRX to order the roof. Surprising is the number of buyers of the less-expensive V-6 model wanting it.