By on April 16, 2013

The upcoming Shanghai auto show is expected to be similar to the Geneva Auto Salon in that crossovers, particularly those from premium brands, will be some of the most anticipated reveals at the show. Buyers in global markets can get enough of them, and that situation is no different at home, where the small premium SUV segment is growing much faster than the equivalent sedan segment.

The latest sales data from independent analyst Tim Cain shows just how quickly the entry-level luxury crossover segment is growing. In March 2013, sales of that segment were up by 46.5 percent year-to-date, while the small luxury sedan segment was up by just 0.5%. Overall volume was greater for sedans, with 38,859 units sold versus 32,209.

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34 Comments on “Small Luxury Crossover Growth Far Outpacing Small Luxury Sedans...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I can understand it, it’s the segment I look at more then any other. These small luxury/near-luxury SUVs are utilitarian without being gigantic, fun to drive, loaded with tech and for those of us who’ve had a Jeep or two in the past, but have moved on from the ball-bustin’ rock crawlers, these comfy SUVs have enough off-road capabilities for the majority of most peoples’s needs and can tow a fishing boat to the lake on weekends with a decent MPG rating… What’s not to like?

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I think that CUVs are lousy vehicles and amount to much less than the sum of their parts. CUVs combine all of the negative aspects of every other category of vehicle: they have the acceleration and handling of an economy car, the off-road ability of a family sedan, and the fuel economy of a truck. I just don’t see the appeal.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Our CUV has the acceleration and handling of a decent economy car. I wouldn’t take it off road, but it is better in the snow on our tardily-plowed road than any sedan we’ve had, including an Audi quattro. It gets 30 mpg on the highway at respectable cruising speeds, which no US market truck will do. Around town, in a traffic calming plagued city, it gets 21-24 mpg. That it uses 87 octane gasoline is a novelty, since the last car we had that used the stuff was gone by 1990. It has other positives too, like being a comfortable car to enter and sit in, having the utility of a huge hatchback, and having better visibility than the current pinch-roofed stuff sold in place of the useful hatchbacks of the past. Does it have a track day in its future? No. Will it tow a ski boat? Not even close. What it does is everything we ask of it with ease and comfortable, roomy seats.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It just depends on what you look for in an SUV or large car. Times have moved past the point where the family-truckster was a high-sitting, go-everywhere, accommodate-everyone-and-their-luggage sort of vehicle. Many of us just look for competent on-road performance, a decent amount of space, and comfort. That’s not to mention the number of urban people who want an SUV and would be far better suited to something like the Range Rover Evoque or Buick Encore than a heavy truck-based vehicle. CUVs meet or exceed most people’s needs, and they offer opportunities for distinctive, fresh styling as compared to their truck-based brethren. I’m particularly happy with our trouble-free 2005 Nissan Murano SL.

        But if you really want a traditional truck, there’s always the 4Runner or Wrangler…

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The declared sales number of 32,209 includes the Lexus RX and Cadillac SRX, which are midsize CUVs. That isn’t just my opinion. They included the RX and the SRX on their mid-sized CUV sales chart too. Would small luxury crossovers be a story at 19,000 sales?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Anything smaller than a Suburban is considered small, even the Grand Cherokee and Sequoia.

      Size of “small” cross-overs is such a nebulous concept when you lump in CR-V, RAV4, Terrain, now the new Jeep Cherokee plus the offerings from Hyundai/Kia, Mazda and Subaru, all who vary greatly in size and space, into one segment. Putting LR first in this luxury segment completely overlooks the offerings from Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Porsche, among others, and not counting those not available in America.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The 32,209 sales figure is the total of the CUVs on their small luxury CUV list. They included the RX and SRX. The RX and SRX also are high on the midsized luxury CUV list, which doesn’t include any of the other small CUVs. There is something amiss with the methodology.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Yeah, I understand there is something amiss with the methodology, but I interpret the article as being broadly applicable to the “luxury cross-over” segment.

          What I see happening in general is that people who can are choosing more cross-overs than ever because of better visibility and higher seating position than in small sedans.

          I think the global auto industry is going through another phase where we see a category of sedans being displaced by the cross-over, where in the past the stationwagon was superseded by the minivan, the minivan by the SUV, etc.

          I can see a scenario where by 2016/2017 we’ll see ye olde Corolla replaced by a vehicle similar in size and shape as a Mazda5, with full-time AWD and in a variety of trim from spartan entry-level to a top-level trim on par as the best from LR, BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Lexus.

          We see this now with entries like the SRX, the RX350 and the new LR. The trend for many is to downsize from opulent Escalades to more fuel-efficient, more compact equivalents.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It’s really quite strange, because everyone and his mother has a different set of standards for CUV-sizes. The line between compact and midsized CUV’s, in particular, is getting blurrier. The new Escape is not appreciably smaller than the “larger” Edge, for example. The new RAV4 could really compete for size with the Escape and Edge at once, as could the Equinox/Terrain twins (although Ford would rather pit its Edge against the Venza and Murano). The CR-V never was that small. I don’t know where you’d put something like the Mitsubishi Outback.

      Then, to top that off, automakers have also started branding hatchbacks as crossovers, like the Fiat 500X, MINI Countryman and Subaru CrossTrek…

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    A very popular segment, with better visibility and seating position than small sedans. The RX350 set the standard that everyone now wants to emulate.

    And while small sedans may sell more presently, that is sure to change in the future. Think of it as CR-V and RAV4, ratcheted up a notch.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I wonder if the popularity of CUVs will lead to a seating position arms race. Once everyone has a CUV the driver and vehicle height will once again be equal leading to yet another round of seating position escalations. By 2020 drivers will sit on stools much like a ship captain or UPS truck driver.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Not sure why that is necessarily the case. People had higher seating positions in the 50s, and the trend later became to have more low slung seats.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I used to wonder that, but as more and more SUV/CRVs hit the road I realized my overall vision is still better because a lot of it has to do with looking over obstacles like shrubbery at intersections and piled high snow.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The RX “set the standard” (when it comes to sales) b/c it is a midsize CUV set at the price of a RWD compact luxury CUV, just like how the ES is a midsize sedan set at the price of a luxury RWD compact sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        That’s a fair point. The RX’s base price is less than a grand higher than the BMW X3 xDrive28i or whatever they call it. Whenever I see the latter, I think BMW 3-Series wagon raised a few inches — it looks tiny from many larger SUVs/CUVs.

        However, it also sets the standard because mom-types love the look of the car too. You can’t discount that.

      • 0 avatar
        piggybox

        The new Acura RDX is even cheaper than RX and not much smaller than it as well. That could explain why it sells well.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          The MDX sells pretty well for a similar reason. It has a 3rd row and sells for not much more than an RX — cheaper than the Germans too, and a lot cheaper than a Lexus GX.

          Of course, its fit and finish is another story…

  • avatar
    olddavid

    This trend validates the need for constant turnover in the car business. I wouldn’t have seen this as anything but a niche in my wildest projections. I’ve never been what they call an “early adopter”, so I guess I’ve been behind the curve for years. After all, this is why the artistic types who do get on the corporate train manage to negotiate substantial pay packages from managers who view their input on par with alchemists and wizards. I can remember reviewing advertising proposals and thinking “where do they come up with this stuff”? This has to be viewed as a net positive, as these have to be high-margin vehicles. Just not in my wheelhouse. I’m always amazed by emerging market trends, as my default wants are always more power and less weight, while my dear wife comes from a completely different space. When we first married I took her to our local mega-dealer to search for a company car, and with everything Ford Lincoln-Mercury sold as her choices, she went for a cheapie Ranger pickup. I guess that is why there are so many models. I still haven’t figured out the MFA crowd, but I’m sure glad they’re here as a counterpoint.

  • avatar

    Cadillac ATS: Spend millions and a couple of years developing, testing and tuning a world class sedan. Millions of dollars more for marketing. Selling only 3000 units a month. 60 day supply with months of launch. High inventory and low margins.

    Buick Encore: Raise the Sonic by 12 inches. Add some foam for sound deadening. Stick a Buick badge, call it a crossover, mark the price up by nine grand and sell 3800 units a month. The Encore is currently one of the fastest selling models out there with less than 30 days supply. Can’t blame the auto manufacturers for following the money.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      3000 a month in the US alone. They will be selling it elsewhere so the investment is spread amongst more than 36,000 units a year. I take your point about the Encore. Similar thing happened with Subaru. I have a legacy wagon, poor sales led it to be dropped in 2008, yet put a new front bumper on it and jack it up and you get 10,000 a month!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        When I saw the Encore at the Seattle Car Show my reaction was, “Buick has a winner here, this is going to sell.”

        I’m not surprised. It is a nice package and an interesting alternative to say smaller luxury and near luxury sedans.

        Although a pedantic argument, I do agree with CJinSD up above that if the RX and SRX are being counted in the data – that is kind of torturing the information.

        The reality is the Encore has really no true competition in its segment. It is very hard to point at anything and say, that is close to it in size and/or features and/or price and buyers would cross shop. The idea that an ILX or Verano or the smaller Lexus buyers would crossshop an Encore or other compact near luxury/luxury CUV/SUV – makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The Europeans are way ahead of us on this segment, and have been for years. I’m not surprised that more people are looking to buy a CUV, luxury or otherwise, but Cadillac and Buick in spite of their best efforts are just also rans. They’re late to the game.

      In the US the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape have done exceedingly well in the class and now, as more well-heeled buyers are considering diving in, there is a need developing for small luxury cross-overs with all the bells and whistles, leather and real wood.

      I wouldn’t buy one because I’m not a pretentious person, nor do I like anything small, but I do believe that there is a demand for small luxury cross-overs, and I do believe that ALL small cross-overs will eventually be better sellers than any of the small sedans, including those with luxury trim like the Verano.

      • 0 avatar

        “but Cadillac and Buick in spite of their best efforts are just also rans”

        Here we go with more mud slinging with complete disregard to facts or numbers. If you checked the charts linked above, you’d realize that the nearly five year old SRX is the second best selling mid-size luxury CUV and the Enclave is the TOP selling luxury crossover with 3 rows. The Encore, which is not included is selling at brisk pace. Lets not forget that unlike Ford, Toyota, Honda and NIssan, GM has a mid level luxury brand in GMC that is stealing some sales from Cadillac and Buick. Include GMC into the numbers and you would realize that GM by far outsells everyone by a huge margin. Which isn’t incorrect considering the Acadia is on par with the RX and MDX in price, not to mention the Denali which is considerably more expensive than the Lexus or Acura. 30% of Acadia sales are the Denalis. GM by itself owns 50% of the BOF Luxury SUV segment.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          The article deals with the Shanghai and Geneva shows. Much of what is shown there will never be sold in the US and what is sold in the US often is not sold there.

          Also, we’re talking “small luxury CUVs”. I would not call the Acadia, Enclave or SRX “small” and I wouldn’t put them on par with Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, et al.

          The future is Asia. North America is a shrinking market. I would not be surprised if entire segments disappear in North America within the next 5 years. There’s too much redundancy in the North American market.

          While more people who can choose to step up to a small luxury CUV at the expense of the small luxury sedans, it doesn’t take away from the sales of all other CUVs and SUVs, including the Acadia, Enclave, SRX, Grand Cherokee, Explorer, etc etc etc etc.

          There will always be people who buy; the trick these days is to have global appeal. Small luxury CUVs seem to be the in-thing for the next decade.

          The manufacturers who can capitalize on that will be the ones making money.

          Were I a betting man, I would put my money on Ford before I would put it on GM. But that is not because I’m mud-slinging.

          It is because Ford has a strategy and plan with Mulally at the helm. GM is trying the shotgun approach to making a come-back, which hasn’t worked in the past, is not working now, and is unlikely to work in the future.

          • 0 avatar
            sunridge place

            ‘The article deals with the Shanghai and Geneva shows’

            Really? The article I read was about growth in crossover sales in the US market both large and small…your previous comments seemed geared toward the segment rather than two auto shows.

            ‘The future is Asia. I would not be surprised if entire segments disappear in North America within the next 5 years’

            North America is not a shrinking market the last few years–although it won’t be a huge growth market compared to other regions.

            The future is not just Asia–its finding vehicles that can sell in both markets whenever possible.

            Not a terribly bold statement about North America as several segments are almost gone as of today.

            Which segments that aren’t already fading away today will be gone?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Having sat in both a Sonic and an Encore, and seeing them literally side-by-side at the Seattle car show (don’t know if that was on purpose or by accident, the Sonic LTZ was literally across the walkway carpet from the Encore) I can tell you…

      …Buick Encore: Raise the Sonic by 12 inches. Add some foam for sound deadening. Stick a Buick badge, call it a crossover, mark the price up by nine grand and sell 3800…

      …greatly understates the differences between the Sonic and the Encore. This is not remotely a badge engineering job. I would say 99.5% of the world would not know they share the same DNA. I would strongly considered an Encore based on what I saw – would have to drive first of course.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Buick Encore: Raise the Sonic by 12 inches.”

      Reminds me of the joke… “because men keep telling them that [gesture] is 8 inches.”

      However, I believe the vehicle was engineered separately by Opel before it became a Buick. The Opel/Vauxhall Mokka does ride on the same Gamma II platform as the Sonic/Spark, however,, and you’d probably be hard pressed to find the similarities unless you took a measuring tape to the hard points.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I think the segment should be called large luxury hatchbacks.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    After 17 years in a Buick Park Ave, my 69 year old mother in law bought a SRX, hey – this article may be on to something…

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    All SUVs beat all sedans and coupes for practicality. And compared to old sedans these new SUVs handle impressively. They are after all a jacked up small car..

    The small SUV is just a socially acceptable way to get the practicality and honestly for non sporting maneuvers a high seating postition DOES make it easier to drive.

    Granted almost all cars are RIDICOUSLY easy to drive nowadays with the backup cameras and the automatic trannies. But the height does help.

  • avatar
    slance66

    This is the prime category for us. These are the station wagons of today folks. I welcome the extra ground clearance and AWD is a must for us. Hell, my RX got stuck in Vermont last weekend. Low ground clearance is not a benefit, nor is short suspension travel. My 328xi crashes through its whole suspension range on potholes and even some freaking manhole covers around here.


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