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.