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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Surge in Market Share Predicted for 2-Seaters

FRANKFURT -- There is a growing view in the car industry that makers will increasingly have to offer cars for individual market segments if they are to keep sales up.

Nowhere is this more true than in sports cars, where industry analysts predict that two-seater cabriolets will more than double their share of the West European car market by 1998, although they will still make up only a small part of the total.

Both BMW and Mercedes are considering increasing production and Porsche's Boxster model, which will reach the showrooms in October, has seen orders surge.

The BMW Z3, introduced in April, is the lowest priced of the three and has won rave reviews from the motoring press.

BMW said through the end of June it had sold 11,647 Z3s and hoped to sell 53,000 this year.

The Mercedes SLK, arriving this summer, is already sold out through the end of 1998 -- demand that marketing director Deiter Zetsche called "overwhelming."

The Porsche Boxster, which carries a price tag in Germany of over 75,000 Deutsche marks ($49,000) will come out in October.

Porsche, which is depending on the car for nearly half its total production of 30,000, has already seen dealers rack up orders for 13,000 of the cars.

"Deposits already in hand will nearly equal our planned first year of production," Porsche spokesman Michael Schimpke said.

The sports car market will get another entry in 1998 when Audi brings out its TT model.

Analysts said that based on the fast start, the three manufacturers should have no problem selling the cars for at least the next three years.

But with manufacturers normally looking to get around eight years sales out of a model, questions remain about the long-term strength of this area of the market.

"If you look at the order books right now, you would have to say there are no problems," said Chris Will, car analyst at Lehman Brothers in London. "But that will not last for ever."

He and others said the three companies will likely try to keep demand up by introducing new variations.

BMW, for example, is widely expected to offer the Z3 with a larger engine and maybe even a hard top.

Analysts said it was no coincidence the three models came out at nearly the same time with each maker keen to expand into new market areas, and all quick to make their move when they saw competitors getting the jump on them.

"This market segment shows how important it is to spin off new models," said Sabine Bluemel, analyst at IMI Sigeco.

"You cannot keep sales up these days without entering clearly defined market segments."