Where does the middle class end

Where luxury begins: New in the upper middle class

Although it cannot yet afford a real luxury vehicle, it has left the lowlands of conventional mid-range cars such as a VW Passat or Opel Insignia. Because such cars are somewhere between luxury and the middle class, they are commonly referred to as the upper middle class. But while they are still status symbols, their popularity has recently suffered somewhat. What the manufacturers now want to change with some innovations.

"In recent years the upper middle class has had to give up," confirms the automobile researcher Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from the University of Duisburg-Essen. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that new body shapes such as SUVs have rivaled classic sedans. On the other hand, in the course of the scrappage bonus, some people probably kept the several-year-old Benz and preferred to buy a new small car as a second car for the family.

Overall, according to Dudenhöffer, the upper middle class in Germany usually has a market share of around five percent. However, the actual numbers show the declining popularity quite clearly: In 2006 there were still 200,709 new registrations, in 2008 only 160,746, and in 2009 the previous low of 141,402 was reached.

According to current forecasts, the numbers will rise again this year - to around 160,000. The main reason for this are two new releases. On the one hand, there is the new generation of the E-Class, which has been available for a while, but is still quite young, and which is generating some demand. In addition, the new BMW 5 Series has just arrived at dealerships in March - after the sedan, the station wagon version, traditionally known as the Touring, will probably follow in September. Audi should then ensure that demand is maintained in the coming year: the next generation of the A6 is expected in 2011.

In any case, the upper middle class in Germany is primarily a matter for the German manufacturers. For classic sedans, their market share is around 85 percent in this segment, according to Dudenhöffer. If you add the modern variants in the form of sedans with a coupé-like roofline, the figure is as high as 93 percent. These models have meanwhile become established, so that innovations can also be expected here.

The Mercedes CLS is considered to be the forerunner of these four-door coupés. Its successor of the same name will appear slightly enlarged in 2011. The Audi A7 is expected as early as the end of 2010 - according to the official statement, it should close the gap between the A6 and A8, but its design is primarily part of the group of vehicles modeled on the CLS.

The importers continue to play a minor role in the upper middle class. However, that does not mean that nothing new can be expected from them. However, there is still a question mark or two behind some novelties. This is especially true for the Saab brand, whose future, according to some experts, is now secured - while others do not consider its continued existence to be very likely despite new investors.

A new vehicle for upper middle class customers is available at Saab: The second generation of the Saab 9-5 is fully developed and should now come to dealers. Technically, the 9-5 is based on an extended platform of the Insignia from Opel. It's a good five meters long.

In France, too, repeated attempts were made to establish serious competitors for the upper middle class. However, with hardly any success. In the foreseeable future, at least Peugeot wants to start again. The "5 by Peugeot" study was therefore presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March. This is seen as an outlook on a future top model from the brand. That in turn should not only replace the previous 607, with the likely designation 508, the production version is also the successor to the smaller mid-range model 407. If the almost five-meter-long sedan does not work in the upper mid-range, then maybe at least in the middle class.