Journalists and carmakers love to toss around the term halo car.
But what the heck is it really? Do we even know?
The halo car is often described as a figurehead for a brand, a car that may sell in smaller volumes but that captures the public imagination. Traditionally halo numbers have been sexy sports cars. Think Mustang, Miata, 911, WRX, or M3. But a halo car is really how a brand says, “This is what we’re all about.” If any car is the public face of Toyota these days, it’s the Prius—not quite a halo car in the same league as the others.
A halo car is more than a symbol, though. It’s a way to draw fresh eyes to a brand—especially the younger eyes that automakers are struggling so mightily to attract in large numbers these days. Do today’s Mustang sales lead to future Explorer sales when a Mustang buyer starts to have kids? It certainly can’t hurt. I’d wager, too, that the once-quirky Subaru is thrilled to have the new BRZ in addition to the WRX, because the two cars together suck in young male buyers. Give those same 20-something males a half-decade and they’ll be back at the dealer with a bundle of joy in one hand and keys to a safe, reliable, boring Outback in the other.