It’s no secret that the market isn’t in the best state in Europe for carmakers, though there is one type of vehicle in particular that is defeating all the odds, and is thriving despite the bleak economy.
That vehicle is the SUV – Sport Utility Vehicles. Automakers won back customers by making smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs that also appealed to newly wealthy buyers in Asia and South America and former sceptics in Europe.
Europeans are expected to buy almost 290,000 small SUVs this year according to IHS Automotive, which is nearly double the number that was sold last year.
According to CBS News, ‘global SUV sales rose 88.5 percent between 2008 and 2013, to 15.7 million, according to IHS Automotive. That was three times faster than auto sales as a whole. By 2016, IHS predicts annual SUV sales will total 20.1 million, or about one of every five vehicles sold.’
The rise and rise of SUVs in Europe
The key in Europe has turned out to be putting the vehicles on platforms originally built for compact or small mid-sized cars. Compact SUVs are now becoming more popular in Europe due to their improved practicality factors; the smaller designs now enable parking in tight European spaces, and the smaller sizes means that those looking to aid the environment can rest assured knowing that the petrol consumption is significantly less than larger SUV models.
Therefore it should come as little surprise that the cream of European carmakers are all planning crossovers and SUVs aimed at the US market that could all be making their public debuts at US auto shows over the coming year.
First up is Audi. Back in December it confirmed that it was developing an entry-level SUV called the Q1. However, Audi won’t have the market all to themselves – far from it in fact, as hot on their tails are the likes of classic 4 wheel drives from Jeep, and it’s rumoured that BMW are working on a sporty version of its own similarly diminutive SUV, the X1.
The growing notion of ‘the global SUV’
Another explanation for the growing popularity of SUVs in Europe from the US is that they are a ‘global’ alternative to regular models. When talking about one example – the Peugeot’s 2008 SUV – Mr Saint-Geours told BBC World News that ‘It’s a global car because it’s the same technical basis, but adapted to each customer in the world’.
However, major car manufacturers are soon learning the importance of crafting an SUV that is still iconic and innovative in design in terms of individuality for the European market. ‘We want to come to the market with a different offer,’ said Francois Goupil de Bouille, Infiniti’s vice-president for Europe, Middle East, Russia and Africa. ‘So what we are going to do is come with a striking design.’
Impact on the USA market
America’s SUV/SUV crossover market has continued to thrive each year. The market grew 19% in January 2015, a 63,000-unit improvement compared with January 2014. You can take a look at the definitive ranking list of the best selling SUV crossovers in the USA here.