Passenger-cars are losing the race for most popular automobile on the road as sports utility vehicles continue to hold the lead in 2017. According to Bloomberg, in January and February of this year, only 37.5% of American auto sales were passenger-cars, and when it comes to potential consumers, 49% were considering a SUV for their next purchase. With companies like Toyota and Lamborghini jumping on the SUV bandwagon and ultimately satisfying the needs and tastes of very different types of buyers, it’s clear that in order to stay relevant in a new car lot, companies can’t ignore that SUVs have a mass appeal in America
So what keeps SUVs at the forefront of the market?
- Big Cars are Safer
Thank basic physics and design for this one. If a big car gets into an accident with a small car, the bigger car is more likely to do the damage rather than be on the receiving end of a major repair bill. And if a SUV gets hit from the front, thanks to a larger front end, the car itself will take most of the impact, lessening or even eliminating the blow to its passengers. Fatality statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) make a compelling argument on behalf of big cars—only 19% of driver deaths in 2015 were in SUVs while 58% were in passenger-cars.
- We Like Being on High
Call it a return to our most primal instincts. When we can see more of what’s around us, we tend to feel more in control—it’s hard to be caught off guard when we have a high vantage point and can survey our surroundings completely. In the same article for Bloomberg, Mark Wakefield of AlixPartners transportation team explained that people feel unsafe in smaller cars when “dwarfed in the canyons of crossovers and trucks.”
- Their Fanbase is Changing
When you think of SUVs’ target demographic, you probably don’t think of single women. But in reality, from 2010-2015 “mainstream small SUV sales to women rose 34 percent, compared to a 22 percent rise for men,” and “premium small SUVs, though smaller in raw numbers, saw 177 percent growth in sales to women.” As a reference point, 40% of all female car purchasers are unmarried.
- They’re “good enough”
As a 2015 article from Kelley Blue Book says, SUVs are “just good enough.” They can be decently priced (the current average price of a car is around $33,000 and as The Motley Fool proves, there are multiple SUVs that fall way below that price point), fuel efficient, well designed without being conspicuous, and have all the tech add-ons to satisfy your specific needs. Plus, they’re perfect for carrying all your stuff (including kids and pets). That being said, two years later, SUVs have gone from “good enough” to “great.”
- Minivans are Old News
While Chrysler hasn’t given up hope on minivans, debuting a new futuristic model at this year’s CES, sales of the so called “soccer mom” car have been dwindling for years. Even in 2012, Forbes was already reporting on how the crossover had taken over as the official family car. But unlike family cars of the past, these don’t come with the family look. In a list of the Top 12 Family Cars from 2017, SUVs reigned supreme while sedans were knocked off completely for the first year ever. It’s easy to understand why SUVs are so popular among parents—their size alone makes them ideal for a large family. Some 3-row SUVs can fit up to 9 people. That’s enough for an entire volleyball team.
- SUVs are Preparing for the Future
Even SUVs are going to soon be self-driving. Apple is using the Lexus RX450h SUV to test out its new technology as part of “Project Titan.”
Does this mean SUVs will eventually be the car of choice for everyone? Unlikely—passenger-cars of smaller proportions still have their place on the highways and city streets—but it’s inarguable that SUVs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.