By on October 10, 2012

What do the Honda CR-V and Ford Explorer have in common? Both recieved lukewarm receptions from the automotive press. The Explorer was doomed from the get-go for abandoning its body-on-frame construction and whatever connotations of rugged off-road capability that came with it. Of course, nobody understood that CAFE and economies of scale, the two driving forces behind every decision in today’s automotive world, were responsible for the switch. The CR-V lacked exciting EcoTurboPowerBoost engines and swoopy styling, and so it was largely forgotten by the press. But now both trucks have the last laugh.

In the small SUV segment, the CR-V is still king. While the Ford Escape edged out the CR-V in September, the year-to-date figures show the CR-V on top by about 13,000 units. We are investigating rumors that Ford has been dumping hail-damaged Escapes onto fleet customers at cut rate prices, while Honda traditionally avoids fleet sales. I’ve long maintained that the CR-V has the kinds of features that matter to buyers in this segment, and as nice as some of the more upscale offerings are, it’s hard to argue with a vehicle that just works in ways you need it to.

The Explorer has a near 6,000 unit lead over the second-place Jeep Grand Cherokee in the YTD rankings. September sales were much closer, with only 1,500 units separating the two. The incentive war heading into the final months of 2012 should make this race particularly interesting.

The full-size SUV standings are pretty much decided in favour the Chevrolet Tahoe, and one can only wonder how much GM’s massive government fleet sale in June helped push the Tahoe to the top of the standings. As gas prices continue to climb, this segment will matter less and less. Most of the field saw double digit declines in September.

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37 Comments on “In The SUV Sales Race, Boring Is King...”


  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    um…doesn’t the change over in models always effect the sales initially?
    The whole new model availability/pipeline thing always upset the real sales.

    Personally, my wife and I just closed in on the Mazda3 being our next purchase.
    We kind of feel the Escape will not come back into price reality until sometime this late summer.
    The CR-V just felt a decade old inside…
    The new Cx5 was irritatingly nervous in daily driving around town.

    The Mazda3 skyactiv seemed the very cheapest way (approx 23K) to get up in MPG and still feel some enjoyment and be available as a car to give to my college son when he needs a car in a year.

    Maybe next year the Escape will be at a real price then…or the CX5 will have an extra hamster to help move it along.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >>Maybe next year the Escape will be at a real price then…or the CX5 will have an extra hamster to help move it along.

      Extra hamsters? I think you’re looking for the Kia Soul. :)

      Mazda3 hatch is a good choice with top rated mpg and cargo carrying space.

      A couple of years ago, I was in the market for something — CUV, wagon, hatch. My wife ruled out the CR-V because “everyone and their dog” drives one.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Maybe I don’t get it – how is the Escape not “real” priced?

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        because when models first come out the demand is high and availability low and the dealers know this and price accordingly.
        Ditto on the CX5, actually.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        I haven’t see any “over pricing” of the Escape or the CX-5 around here. You’re less likely to get a model that isn’t nearly loaded, though.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        I really don’t know why you don’t see this.
        Actually, even AOL auto just released a list of cars NOT to buy right now and they were explaining the very same reasons.
        The supplies were low, demand high and dealers were not giving an inch.
        Nor were Mfrs willing to ofer dealers money back as incentives.
        This WILL happen…do not expect Ford to not discount this car like it did the older Escape.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      I bet the Grand Cherokee is the most profitable.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    What? Nothing on Kia’s own hamster-wagon, the Soul? I see tons of them around here, and not a bad drive, either.

    Counter that with our rental Dodge Avenger in Florida a few days ago…well, that’s for another article!

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    I think that the segment leaders at the end of the day will pretty much retain their leadership position after the more interesting and cutting-edge offerings have their ‘flash in the pan’ moments. Sure, breakthrough products will grab headlines, especially in the automotive media, but in the end, these cars are bought by regular people who most likely aren’t enthusiasts and therefore default to the segment leaders. Another case in point, the much maligned Civic.

    And to continue the point, I too agree that the new Ford Fusion is a stunning car and a definite wake-up call for the segment, and I would definitely consider it my number 1 or 2 choice if I were in that market. But I think that despite its acclaim, we’ll continue to see the CamCord lead that segment once the Fusion’s hype dies down.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      “…but in the end, these cars are bought by regular people who most likely aren’t enthusiasts and therefore default to the segment leaders.”

      Perfect point. The best and brightest would probably say the Jeep GC is a better SUV than the Explorer, but for what? Sure, rock climbing/back woods trails, you’ve got a point, but for grocery gittin? Hell no, the Explorer is far better for what 99.9999% of SUV drivers buy them for and why they buy them. A big CUV like the Exporer deserves to be a market leader there.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I sort of disagree. I don’t really think the Explorer brings much to the table over the Chryslers. Even if towing and off-roading mean nothing to you.

        Still, even if I concede your point, I’d argue that a Flex or minivan is better than the Explorer for grocery getting and parking lot duties.

        So non-ethusiasts might not necesarily want a vehicle with classic SUV capabiliites but they certainly seem to desire their CUV to look like it has them.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Well furthermore, the BEST car in class as far as amenities and performance and value for the money isn’t necessarily the best SELLER in the class.

  • avatar
    sunridge place

    Derek-

    I believe you should at least acknowledge that Equinox/Terrain has actually outsold both CR-V and Escape YTD. As has Traverse/Acadia/Enclave versus Explorer.

    YTD thru September:
    Equinox/Terrain=237,688
    CR-V=213,381
    Escape= 200,075

    Equinox/Terrain are entering their 5th model year in the current design. CR-V is obviously much newer.

    YTD thru September:
    Traverse/Acadia/Enclave= 172,455
    Explorer= 113,655

    The GM Lamda vehicles are getting a refresh finally for 2013MY in a few months.

    There are many that criticize GM for having too many brands…at least acknowledge the OEM leader in the class that you are writing about.

    • 0 avatar

      No sales figures combine models sold across different brands even if they share the same platform. Interestingly, if you combine sales of the Sierra/Silverado, it still falls short of the F-Series YTD total. GM trucks thru September 410,869 versus 463,733 for the F-Series.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Yes Derek…I know if you combine Silverado/Sierra they sell less than F-150.

        What does that have to do with my point?

        I didn’t say you should change the article. I just suggested you might acknowledge what I posted.

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        Sunridge,
        Using your logic, why not include the RDX with the CR-V? Given the reviews, I wouldn’t be surprised if Acura shifts 3K/month easy.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Apples to Oranges.

      The Equinox/Terrain, while being seperate vehicles and therefore undeserving of being grouped together, are much larger than the Escape or the CR-V. They’re be considered “mid-sized CUV” versus the Escape’s “small CUV,” as the article notes.

      Also, the Explorer is a 5 passenger “SUV CUV” – you’re comparing it to a 7 passenger large CUV. If you’re going to do that, again not lumping GM’s models into one category when they’re seperate models, compare the… Traverse to the Flex. Or the Acadia to the Flex. Or the Enclave to the Flex.

      While we’re on the topic – a vehicle of the Explorer’s (or the Edge’s, for that matter) relative size would more suitably be directly compared to something the size of the Chevy Equinox, or as the article mentions most appropriately, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

      I feel I’m a good barometer of vehicle size, by the way. I’m 6’5. I’ve got TONS of leg room behind the wheel of an Equinox or Edge, and pretty much none at all behind the new Escape (which is at least a little better than the old Escape, I couldn’t physically sit behind the wheel and drive the old one), which makes sense considering the new Escape is essentially the same car as my ’12 Focus hatch, only taller and a tad longer, with the length being added to the second row/cargo area. It truely is *small*.

      “…at least acknowledge the OEM leader in the class that you are writing about.”

      Couldn’t have said this, about your comment, better myself. Thanks!

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        The Explorer has seating for 7 and its dimensions put it kind of in between the Thetas and Lambdas.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        My apologies, I wasn’t aware they still offered a third row on the Explorer. Still doesn’t change the fact that based on form factor and pricing, the Flex is much more the direct competitor to the GMT960 full-sized CUV’s than the Explorer. If anything, the Explorer takes on the JCG (or Durango, RIP) or the Toyota Highlander, who shares it’s “off-road sometimes” aspirations AND the idea of a small third row.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        As far as I know, you can’t get an Explorer without the 3rd row. Its either seating for 6 or 7 depending on the second row.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Equinox/Terrain are just platform mates with unique sheet-metal. Throw in the RDX and Honda’s total for the CR-V platform is over 240,000 with about half the total dealerships and a tenth the fleet sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Freddy M

      I see your point as they are both mechanically the same, but in my personal opinion, if the manufacturer sees fit to sell it under different brands, then they should keep the sales reporting separate because as far as I’m concerned, the Equinox is a direct competitor to the Terrain just as it is to the Escape.

      It also irritates me how Toyota rolls up Matrix sales into Corolla sales. Well then why bother naming it differently?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Matrix really is just a Corolla hatchback, although I agree that they shouldn’t include it in sales of the Corolla. Back in the ’80s, Toyota had the unrelated FWD Corolla-Tercel sharing the lot with RWD Corollas followed by the Corolla F/X, FWD Corolla sedans and wagons, RWD Corolla coupes being on the market simultaneously. It is funny that Toyota now uses two model names to cover two body styles on one platform when they used to use the Corolla name to cover two platforms, three drive-trains, and as many as five body styles at a time.

    • 0 avatar

      Current CR-V generation was introduced in 2007. It had a modest mid-life update, which had new sheetmetal here and there. If you look under the hood of the 2012 CR-V, you’re going to see a longcat-long longitudal member that connects the new fascia with the old structure that nobody redesigned, of course.

  • avatar

    If any Vehicle is boring its got to be a GM Product, plan to spend lots of Money on Repairs too, you really can’t compare a Honda CRV to any GM Product in my humble opinion! For one thing they cost a lot more than a CRV, so how can you compare a Equinox to a CRV?

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      The Ecotec series of engines has proven to be pretty reliable, and I’ve heard nothing negative about the 6 speed GM is using in the Equinox/Terrain twins. I’d have to call your comment “plan to spends lots of Money on Repairs too” reaking of fanboyism or bias. Clearly you haven’t driven or owned a modern GM vehicle.

      The MSRP difference between the Equinox and the CR-V is about $1,000, by the way – definitely not “a lot more” than a CR-V.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Of course they are boring. SUVs and CUVs are simply the modern replacements for the station wagons of my youth, and no one ever bought a Kingswood or Country Squire because it was exciting, did they?

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    A few months ago, I put quite a few miles on a 2012 Subaru Forester dealer loaner car. Though it’s styling is ordinary, the around-town & highway pep, ride quality, cargo utility, outward visibility, and handling impressed me. However, I can’t confortably call it an SUV or crossover…it remains a wagon to me.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Are they boring because they sell so many? If E-Type Jaguars sold a million a year for a decade wouldn’t they be boring? … You are right, those SUV’s are boring at any sales volume. And , no, ten million E-Types would not be boring, just cheaper.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I think the title is kinda misleading. CR-V isn’t the sales king because it was boring. It’s the sales king because it meets the needs of people who bought it perfectly. Honda sweats the detail on that, and not nifty styling. Other makes need fancy styling to get customers interested in the car, making them boring like CR-V would only serve to take the one thing that would make customers consider them instead of CR-V. I’m sure the CR-V would sell even better if it were better styled.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      People have been buying the CR-V in droves for the same reason they buy the non-competitive RAV4 – the perceived quality of Honda/Toyota versus their competitors. The CR-V is ugly, the interior is budget, and it really doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. You can get competing vehicles for the same price with more stuff. But “it’s a Honda, it’ll last 20 years!!!111″ is the sentiment. And when you have people like Gentle Ted up there, who genuinely seem to believe a 2013 Equinox are “not reliable,” it makes for the perfectly Japanese-skewed sales storm.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        At least Hondas are not overpriced there in the US. They might indeed cost you more in the end, due to lack of incentives, discounts, etc. but their sticker price is competitive. Here in Indonesia they’re always priced higher than the competition, while having less features and standard equipment. Yet people still buy them! I don’t understand what their customers were thinking either.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Why wouldnt a 4×4 station wagon be boring ?

  • avatar
    Easton

    IMO, the CR-V is the ugliest new vehicle today

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Still, better looking than the previous CR-V with was Aztek-ish with its double grill and its sloping greenhouse.

      Think the new Santa Fe will make inroads if Hyundai can get the production capacity issue settled.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Women drive CUVs and most of them couldn’t care less if they are boring or not. What they want are vehicles for people who don’t really like vehicles – that is appliances that ‘just work.’ They don’t find ANY vehicle really fun to drive.

    The only really fun SUVs are what rich men buy when they have to get one for the wife like X5M and the Cayenne Turbo.. And these are only fun because men like torque (and they do handle better).


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