The ‘SUV-mania’ increasingly attracts premium manufacturers

There is no doubt: any opportunity to sell more cars is always welcome. In an increasingly consolidated and globalized industry, manufacturers must find new ways to keep their plants operating. The best of all, at least in the last 15 years, have been SUVs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. The boom has been such that it has reconfigured the range of brands, to the point of concentrating most of the sales of many of them.

The change of priorities when developing new models is one of the effects of SUV fashion. At the beginning of the century, these vehicles barely appeared in the rankings, as most consumers opted for compact and family cars in Europe, and sedans in the United States and China.

In 2001, SUV consumers accounted for nearly 11% of global passenger and light commercial vehicle sales. This percentage rose to 13% in 2010, 25% in 2015, and 37% last year. Until October of this year, the estimated share of SUVs reached 41%.

This rapid growth has meant a sea change in what consumers find at dealerships. Everything from the product approach to advertising revolves around SUVs or crossovers, regardless of the brand’s predigri or its positioning. It is the answer to the general idea that these vehicles are safer when driving, due to their higher driving position; They are more comfortable when entering and leaving, especially for the elderly; and they are more ‘cool’, due to their aggressive designs and their supposed capacity in rougher terrain. Number: SUV Sales

It is therefore not surprising that the vast majority of luxury cars today are SUVs. In 2020, these represented 54% of global sales of premium and luxury vehicles, while traditional bodies (sedan, wagon, hatchback) accumulated 43% of the total. The rest corresponds to the few available minivans (MPV) already sporty.

Mercedes-Benz, the most popular premium brand in 2020, posted double-digit declines in all its segments, except for SUVs, where demand grew 12% over 2019. However, saloons, hatchbacks and wagons remain the best-selling bodies of the three German premiums.

Not the case among small and medium premium brands by sales. For example, in the case of Lexus, the fourth best-selling premium brand in the world, 65% of its sales in 2020 were SUVs. Something to expect, considering the evolution of its SUVs (UX, NX, GX, RX and LX), coupled with the loss of sedans (the GS is no longer produced, and the IS is no longer sold in Europe) and hatchbacks (the CT disappeared with no successor).

The weight of SUVs is even higher in other brands that have historically been known for their saloons and family cars. In 2020, Volvo had four traditional models (two sedans and two wagons) and only three SUVs available in its range, but in sales, the latter represented 71% of the total. It’s the same percentage achieved by Cadillac SUVs, and similar to that of Infiniti (73%) and Acura (76%).

SUV fever has been no stranger to luxury brands. Today, Lamborghini sells more Urus than Aventador and Huracán combined. 51% of Rolls-Royce sales in 2020 corresponded to the Cullinan SUV, while Maserati’s Levante accounted for 56% of the brand’s sales. Will it also happen to Ferrari with its Purosangue? Number: SUV Sales

The author of this article, Felipe Munoz, is a specialist in the automotive industry at JATO.