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Popularity of Crossovers Leaves SUVs in dust

This article appeared in the December 8, 2005 issue of USA Today. While VehicleVoice agrees in general with what Healey and O’Donnell report, we should not lose sight that folks really have vehicles in only a few clearly identifiable classes: Cars (sedans, coupes, sports cars) and Trucks (pickups, SUVs and Minivans). In VehicleVoice Research (, there is seldom any comment on “crossovers”. A vehicle is either an SUV or its not. Folks will talk about softer SUVs (crossovers) that maneuver better, get better fuel economy. But, too many manufacturers are forgetting that, at a glance, a crossover needs to be at-a-glance an SUV. Heck, you might get a cross between a wagon and a sporty coupe and put it real low to the ground and call it a crossover. Eeeeek!
Popularity of crossovers leaves SUVs in dust
By James R. Healey and Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY
Buyers are shifting rapidly from traditional SUVs to more comfortable and more fuel-efficient crossover models.
The Ford Freestyle is the crossover vehicle most traded in for by truck-based Explorer owners. The Ford Freestyle is the crossover vehicle most traded in for by truck-based Explorer owners.
The transition had been inching along for several years but has turned into a stampede.
Crossovers, adaptations of car or minivan underpinnings, outsold traditional, truck-based SUVs the past three months and should do so routinely and permanently beginning next year, according to data and projections from Ford Motor (F). (Photos: Hot new crossover SUVs)
Crossover SUVs
Lighter weight
better fuel economy
smoother ride
better handling.
Can’t tow or haul as much
less ground clearance
lighter-duty four-wheel drive.
Traditional SUVs
able to tow and haul heavy loads
greater ground clearance
heavy-duty four-wheel drive.
poor gas mileage
stiff ride
clumsy handling

“That’s the biggest change in the truck segment, and that’s not about to go away,” says Mike Jackson, CEO of dealership chain AutoNation. “Gas prices have sort of taken the ‘cool factor’ off the super-large” SUVs.
Through November, sales of truck-based SUVs, such as Ford Explorer and Toyota Sequoia, are down 13.5%, while sales of car-based crossovers, such as Honda Pilot and Saturn Vue, are up 14.4%, according to Ford data.
“That’s the bottom falling out” of the market for truck-style SUVs, says George Pipas, Ford’s sales analyst.
Automakers are responding. General Motors (GM) will double its crossover models within four years. Brands ranging from Kia to Mercedes-Benz have crossovers or soon will.
Crossover sales jumped from zero in 1995 to 2.2 million this year. (Story: Crossovers blend comfy ride, better fuel-efficiency)
Counting crossover sales is inexact because not everyone uses the same definition. They usually are considered to be SUVs, wagons and some hatchbacks that use car-style construction yet are classed as trucks by the government mainly because of their cargo areas.
Crossover popularity should result in:

•Safety changes.
According to government studies, because crossovers are lighter and lower, they should be less deadly to other vehicles they hit but might not protect their own occupants as well.
•Bigger discounts. The move to crossovers will mean more of them. That eventually will mean bigger price discounts. And as traditional SUVs’ sales fall, their prices should drop, too.
Crossovers are less-able off-roaders and typically can’t tow or haul as much as truck-based SUVs. But many buyers seem to be focusing on crossovers’ advantages — especially fuel economy.
Ford says the vehicle most often traded for its Freestyle crossover is its Explorer. With a V-6 engine and four-wheel drive, an Explorer is rated 17 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving, Freestyle 21 mpg.

1 Comment

  • karxprt| December 8, 2005 at 7:05 am

    Crossovers, bah. It’s either an SUV or it’s not. You can have a crossover with all the car bits below the skin as long as it looks like an SUV, has a high seating position with good visibility, good room for passengers and good room for cargo.
    If those boxes can’t be checked then it is a “mongrelhalfbreedbastard”.

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