By on May 7, 2010

We live to serve here at TTAC, so when our faithful commentators requested a comparative graph of Chevy Suburban and Tahoe Sales from the heart of the SUV boom, who were we to say no? And sure enough, there are some interest lessons to be learned from the exercise. In 1999, as the SUV boom headed for the stratosphere, the ‘burban actually passed the Tahoe in terms of volume for one year. But the fad wouldn’t last: Suburban sales peaked in 2001, a year before the Tahoe topped out at nearly 209k units. The Suburban also fell further, suffering big year-over-year losses until a pre-gas-shock uptick in 2007, a year after the Tahoe recorded its first post-peak upswing. Counter-intuitively, the 2008 gas shock actually hurt Tahoe volumes even worse than Suburban, shedding over 50k units (or about 60 percent) compared to 2007 levels. Over the same period, the Suburban “only” lost 30k units of volume (about 55 percent).

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27 Comments on “Sales Chart: Chevrolet Suburban Versus Chevrolet Tahoe 1995-2009...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    By 2005 you’d think GM would’ve gotten a clue and start backing away from a business model so cripplingly dependent on stratospheric sales of humongous SUVS and possibly work to improve some of their passenger cars?

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I never understood that Tahoe. If you are going to buy a big, hulking crappy gas mileage vehicle, then why not do it right and get the big one instead of the one that has all the disadvantages but can’t carry all the people or stuff?. My sister didn’t listen to me, and within a couple of years her Tahoe was gone and a GMC Suburban was in the drive.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Whichever one gives the lemmings their self-perceived street creds the biggest boost is likely gonna’ be the winner of the sales contest.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I never understood that Tahoe.”

    You probably wouldn’t understand the VW Toureg, Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Grand Cherokee. All smaller vehicles that off equal or poorer fuel economy.

    In 1/2 ton form the Tahoe can tow just as much as the Burb and both are 7 passenger vehicles. Although your 3rd row passengers will be much happier in the Burb. Still the Tahoe will save you 3-4K intially, is easier to manuver, will get better mileage and takes up less room in your garage. And who has ever complained they have too much garage space!

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      The Toyota 4Runner and the Jeep GC do have redeeming qualities – they actually perform well off-road.

      I’ve done a bunch of off-roading in all three vehicles, the Tahoe included. The 4Runner and Grand Cherokee hold their own, the Tahoe seems to be, as Jeremy Clarkson said, flummoxed by snow, rain, sleet, ice, and wet grass.

      The Tahoe isn’t any good off-road, and it doesn’t do the on-road tasks very well either. It’s a pointless vehicle.

      -ted

  • avatar
    IGB

    This graph probably looks very similar to sales of just about any SUV or for that matter, perhaps the entire auto industry.

    The housing market graph looks just like this. So might the US employment rate just shifted over a couple of years.

    Perhaps Suburban sales could be a leading economic indicator.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    ‘Hos and ‘Burbs are the best SUVs on the road today. Nothing can match their utility/economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Yeah, ‘cept pretty much any non-GM minivan ever made. Oh wait, you said ‘match’, and your Burbs and Hoes would win hands down in fuel consumption, rollover potential, insurance expenses, and depreciation rate.

    • 0 avatar
      radimus

      Try to tow a 3000+ lb trailer or camper with a minivan loaded with 4+ passengers, dogs, and gear. Get back to me about how well that fiasco turned out. I’ll be expecting your call from a repair shop while the transmission is being removed from your minivan in tiny little pieces.

    • 0 avatar

      For heavy towing and driving off-road an SUV is clearly superior to a minivan. That said, most of the people who jumped on the SUV bandwagon never towed anything and never drove off-road. The majority of these SUV buyers would have been much better served with a minivan.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Perhaps for the benefit of your non-American readers a picture or at least an explanation of how these things are different would be in order? So that we could visualize what on earth you’re talking about?

    Thanks in advance

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Suburban
      “…For most of its recent history, the Suburban has been a station wagon-bodied version of the Chevrolet pickup truck…”

      Tahoe is the length of a regular cab pickup with a 6.5 ft short bed.
      Suburban is the length of a regular cab pickup with a 8 ft long bed.

      The attraction of a full size SUV is it has 48 inches between the wheel wells to handle standard 4 ft x 8 ft sheets of building materials. They also are very good tow vehicles. The mid-size SUVs give up a lot of utility without gaining much on fuel economy.

  • avatar
    lanetru

    ttac should overlay sales of the RX and highlander.

    CUVs killed the SUV as much as $3-gas.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Would be interesting to see the Avalanche put into this graph. I think many people found the Avalanche more versatile thus stealing a few SUV and truck sales. I would have bought one had they not been so ugly when they first came out.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “The Tahoe isn’t any good off-road, and it doesn’t do the on-road tasks very well either. It’s a pointless vehicle.”

    There is not one thing about my ’07 Tahoe that says take me off road. Heck it came from the factory with “P” tires. It’s built to tow. In that respect it will run circles around any 4Runner or Jeep Cherokee. The 4Runner is a good vehicle but the Cherokee is garbage(sorry I know too many people who have owned them) with poor resale value. Still the Tahoe has more room inside and achieves better fuel economy than either. I really doubt you have ever driven the current Tahoe to make such an ill informed comment about its road manners.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I wonder if the Tahoe and Suburban should be really considered two wildly separate vehicles. They are both basically enclosed vehicles built upon the GM 1/2 ton truck platform. The ‘burb is the long wheelbase version while the Tahoe is a shorter wheelbase variant. For people who need/want a vehicle of that type it is mostly a question of just how long they want it to be. BTW, the fuel economy ratings for similarly equipped Tahoes and Suburbans are identical, which isn’t surprising.

  • avatar
    lawstud

    Hmmm the Suburban and Tahoe stopped selling the base model in 2002 right when the sales were peaking. Gm focused on profit margins by loading them with options, but Chevy bean counters didn’t realize raising the price 3-6K would kill as many sales in combination with the rising gas prices.

    Yeah, a big and heavy station wagon which for any large family was well received. Nowadays Chevy is trying to sell minivans as “CUV’s” and prices them accordingly at a premium.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    Last summer, a college student was quoted as saying that yeah, driving his Tahoe to and from college each day DID cost him a little more — his monthly gasoline bill was $800— but he loved the Tahoe. THIS is the kind of customer GM counts on. And, the president of the auto workers union said on TV that well, GM was indeed innovating, just look, the Tahoe was voted car/SUV of the year! His comment took my breath away. Americans love big, garish, crude vehicles, there is no doubt.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    “Try to tow a 3000+ lb trailer or camper with a minivan loaded with 4+ passengers, dogs, and gear. Get back to me about how well that fiasco turned out. I’ll be expecting your call from a repair shop while the transmission is being removed from your minivan in tiny little pieces”

    If this is your situation, you should have a car like this:

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Try to tow a 3000+ lb trailer or camper with a minivan loaded with 4+ passengers, dogs, and gear. Get back to me about how well that fiasco turned out”

    You put 3K behind any minivan and then load it with gear and people and you’ll be grossly overloaded per the manufacturers specs. Most max tow ratings are with one person in the vehicle. There is no real engineering behind any of them. They are mainly derived in marketing departments.

    “BTW, the fuel economy ratings for similarly equipped Tahoes and Suburbans are identical, which isn’t surprising.”

    True, but the Tahoe is lighter and that should equate to less fuel used. Although I’ll agree it’s not enough to sway the buying decison towards the Tahoe on its own.

    • 0 avatar
      radimus

      Well, the towing limitations are determined more by the ability of the unibodies to handle the max tongue weight of the trailer, but yes there is a marketing component as well. It just plain costs too much to beef up a passenger car-based minivan enough to safely handle heavier loads.

  • avatar
    Bergwerk

    Thanks for the extra info. The Tahoe certainly has had an affect on Suburban sales, but there is more. Back in 95 if you wanted to haul 7 people, you had three choices: Mini-van, full size van, or Suburban. Now there are countless suv’s and crossovers that can accommodate 7 (at least for short trips)and the Suburban’s market is more tightly defined. For those who routinely haul 7-9 plus luggage and possibly tow a trailer, the Suburban is still your boy.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I would like to see one more chart. One with the 4 other Chevy Suburban derived GM Vehicles: The Chevrolet Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac Escalade ESV, and Cadillac Escalade EXT. I bet those models ate away at Suburban sales yet plummeted as time when on too.

  • avatar
    John R

    The Acadia and her badge engineered sisters couldn’t have helped matters. They’re everywhere and I understand why after having driven one for a few days some months back.

    The Acadia is almost as quick; might as well be an Evo/WRX in the corners when you compare it to a GMT; and probably seats as many…while getting better mileage.


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