By on November 29, 2014

subcompact SUV sales chart October 2014The Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and Mazda CX-3 are coming. The Buick Encore, a pair of taller Minis, and the Nissan Juke are already here.

It’s a burgeoning segment, silly in the eyes of many, but useful for automakers who want to cash in on consumers’ desire for fuel efficiency and slightly higher driving positions, consumers who are forever interested in a little wheelarch cladding.

However, these vehicles don’t even combine to sell as often as the Honda CR-V, America’s top-selling SUV/crossover. That’s not to say they won’t. Nor are we suggesting that buyers of these vehicles would consider something as mainstream as a CR-V, Escape, or RAV4, America’s top-selling utilities.

But the CR-V’s numbers do provide a great deal of perspective. While the figures achieved by this latest breed of cute-ute will grow, the CR-V enjoyed a record-setting year in 2013 and will break that record in 2014.

While studying today’s chart, please don’t admit that the first question that springs to mind involves the Suzuki X-90. Mask that. Erase that question before you submit your comment. Don’t let it get the better of you. America’s torrid love affair with Suzuki, and the X-90 in particular, must surely be a distant memory.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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76 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: How Many Subcompact SUVs Are Automakers Selling?...”


  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Oh, bless you, Tim Cain! And right after the latest Baruth puddle.

    That’s some righteous compensation.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    I think this trend is the purest distillation of boomers taking primacy in the marketplace. These vehicles are worthless for those still in breeder-phase, too dorky for kids on the way up, but sheer bliss for empty-nesters who’ve been through all the clunkiness of more capacious vehicles and who have amassed too much dignity to ever again suffer a bottom-crawling sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You may have nailed it. I’m not quite an empty-nester, but the Renegade is high on my “next” list.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      I think you need to look up “dorky” and refresh your memory. Something like the Juke or Paceman is unusual looking, maybe even “ugly” (but in a cool or mean way) but not “dorky.” The CX-3 is frankly handsome, as is the HR-V and 500X. While you have a point about empty nesters being a market, these are also definitely targeted at kids on the way up, as well as a slightly more robust alternative to the traditional compact and subcompact commuter vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      You nailed it.

      All of these subcompact and compact SUVs hold a lot of interest to me now. If I had to replace the minivan I would look at one of these cute utes long and hard – or a manual Sonic (if I could get the row your own option at a high trim level)

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I’ll add my agreement, for the subcompacts. The Rav4 and CR-V have grown into compact size, while I’ve seen empty nest boomers in the subcompacts trolling garage sales and grocery shopping. They’re easy to get into and out of, have good visibility, are easy to park in small spaces, and can hold a pair of lamps, bed table, or small bookcase from the garage sales, as well as groceries. They’re basically utility city cars for seniors, but they’re already getting handed down to grandchildren as their first car, since the LeSabre and Park Avenue were too big and had to be sold for cash or traded in for something smaller.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    I hope Mini keeps the Paceman around, even if they just call it the Countryman 2-door. But I see these taking the place formerly owned by compact cars, just as “compact” SUVs have taken the market niche formerly owned by the midsize sedan. In particular they’ll appeal to those people who feel that a trunk is too constrictive for cargo and wish there was another alternative out there, since of course Americans don’t buy hatchbacks.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The sweet spot in the US market has always been in the 180 to 200 inch range (4.5 to 5 meters for you metric types). There’s no reason to expect smaller SUVs to generate top-10 sales numbers. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be successful, but they’ll never move the metal like the old Taurus/Accord/Camry triumvirate.

    If anything, it looks like Honda could do well with a slightly bigger SUV. The Crosstour is a dud (perhaps because it’s too ugly?), and the Pilot never connected with its audience, but there’s still gold in them hills.

    • 0 avatar

      I wonder how much the sloping back hurts the crosstour. Having a hatchback instead of a “squareback” puts a huge dent in the amount of usable cargo space.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        The “squareback” is certainly a critically endangered species. Honda (Crosstour, HR-V) and the Koreans appear to be the most egregious purveyors of worthless, slope-back denudations.

        I’d like to just finish the job of crushing them all.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          The sloped back glass probably helps with aero some, reducing MPG by some small amount that they’ll take because it’s cheap/easy to do.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Yeah, but I’m all like eff the mpg and aero, just give me a box to load and I’ll drive slower.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Drive slower? This does not compute.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Then I’ll thank you to hand back your BK crown.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            NEVAH!

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            Damnit you guys! I’m in a hallway outside my daughters dance class and the other parents are looking at me funny because I keep laughing about Burger King crowns. Thank goodness they’ve no idea what in laughing about!

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            Damn it you guys. I’m sitting in the hall outs!de my daughters dance class and the other parents are looking at me funny when I keep laughing about Burger King crowns. Thank goodness they’ve no idea how inane the subject of my amusement actually is. (Resubmitted with required character substitution).

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            05lgt,

            I’m feelin’ for ya. Had a similar problem in my office last week with a certain tresmono reply to BAFO. Oh, jeez… abdominal cramps from that one.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            Oh dear me yes. Tres has been on a roll lately.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      The first gen Pilot was a homerun; gen 2 has been wtf? The first Pilots were a nice, simple Honda-esgue design with a Honda-esque interior….I think the brass told them to turn up the Tonka meter to 11 for the newer one.

      I fully expect gen 3 to be much more civilized…

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        My former son-in-law had a first-gen Pilot. He never maintained it except for Jiffy-Lube and Discount Tire visits. Somewhere around 200,000 miles the original timing belt broke and the engine was irreparably damaged.

        Even so, he managed to part it out for more than $3500, one piece at a time.

  • avatar
    theupperonepercent

    “Subcompact SUV”???

    What the hell is that?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Have you seen a Buick Encore? That’s them

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        Eggs on wheels!

        Spin ’em to make sure they’re ready.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          They even stand on end during the equinox, how do you think that Chevy got the name?

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          I thought you put eggs in a bowl of cold water. If they sink, they’re good, if they stand on end they’re still good but for not much longer, and if they float, toss ’em. I saw a picture on the internet of a Jeep Patriot at the bottom of a swimming pool, so it’s good right?

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            That’s interesting.. so, chemistry happening inside the egg distributes density from yolk-heavy (good: sinks or upends) to more evenly diffuse (bad: floats)?

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            That’s interesting.. so, chemistry happening ins*de the egg distributes density from yolk-heavy (good: sinks or upends) to more evenly diffuse (bad: floats)?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            @petezeiss, I’ve been told that bacteria spoiling the egg from the inside produces noxious gasses that make it float, and make you dizzy when you crack one open. Finding that out leads me to believe that with those eggs that sit up, ” still good” is a relative term.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            I’ve been told that bacteria spoiling the egg from the ins*de produces noxious gasses that make it float, and make you dizzy when you crack one open. Finding that out leads me to believe that with those eggs that sit up on end, “still good” is a relative term.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Uh, yeah.. I think the ones that sit up on end have advanced to weaponhood.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      That would be the SUVs that are smaller than the “small” SUVs, but not quite as small as a gnat. Or a mythical A-segment SUV I guess, which is why the Europe doesn’t use “Compact” and “subcompact” and “minicompact” and instead uses C-, B- and A-segment cars (though for some reason all SUVs are J-segment, but everyone pretty much ignores that since most SUVs are actually cars anyway).

      Of course, they’re in trouble when someone comes up with something smaller than A-segment.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Up1, “subcompact SUVs” are, more or less 160 to 180 inches long (4 to 4.5 m), although the ones mentioned here are at the short end of that range (160-170 inches).

      In other words, they are 2 feet shorter than the traditional “average American car” (’57 Chevy, ’87 Taurus, ’07 Camry: they are within inches of each other). That means that they are marketed more toward young buyers and empty-nesters.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        My Ford Escape is 175″ long, it used to be a compact CUV, now it’s sub-compact?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The ’57 Chevy at 197″ was the last of the sub 200″ full size cars. The 58 Bel Air was 209″, the ’59 Impala was 212″. Within a decade of ’59, mid-size cars were over 200″, and full-size were tuna boats until the late ’70s downsizing.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          That’s correct (I presume), however Chevy sold the Chevelle and the Nova during those same years which hovered around 180-200 inches. Almost all American cars gained 6-8 inches when bumper standards got tougher in the early 1970s, but that didn’t add any useable space.

          My main point is that there’s no reason to think that cars/trucks/SUVs/whatever that are shorter than a CR-V will consistently outsell larger vehicles in the US. The 180-200 inch range seems to be right-sized for American roads and consumers.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    “It’s a burgeoning segment, silly in the eyes of many”. I guess this is why so many auto makers are scrambling to build that small SUV. Buick is a poor comparison to the Honda cr-v. Sure for the “we are not suggesting” that comprises of one person for a unbiased opinion, it’s a grand comparison. Smaller type SUV’s are a growing segment for people that don’t live in a cookie cutter sedan mindset.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      It’s not only that. I love the Honda Fit, but as someone who still has to get on the interstate on a daily basis, I’d like a little more power. I’d get absolutely horny at the idea of the Civic hatchback, but Honda can’t justify that kind of offering in this country.

      The subcompact CUV, at least for Honda, has the compact’s engine for just enough power to get you on a bustling freeway.

      It’s also worth noting that many of the subcompact and even compact hatchbacks (like the Ford Focus) have seats that do not lay completely flat. As someone who often takes their dog with them or to the dog park, a completely flat cargo floor is a must have.

      We also have a “big” car in a Toyota Tacoma, and like for our second car to be a little smaller and more fuel efficient. We don’t need all the space in a compact cuv, and, as you can tell from our other car, we just aren’t the land yacht driving type.

      Also keep in mind that the HRV appears to have a higher level of refinement both on the interior and with regards to sound deading than the Fit. These little details become ever so important to the responsible consumer.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        My wife feels the same way. Not only are subcompacts so small you are also sitting on the ground like every other generic sedan. Looking up tpraying another truck does not just roll over on the little cars. At least with the SUV you site up higher and the subcompact SUV do seem to be more refined then a low rider version. Fit, yaris, civic, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        What the world needs is a dealer installed screw type blower with a bypass for the Fit. A modest 30% torque boost would make these things into monsters. As long as it’s a warranty killer it won’t sell though.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    These things should do well abroad. I would expect Americans to continue to get subcompacts that are designed primarily with other markets in mind — we buy enough of them to make the segment viable, but not enough of them to dictate all of the terms of their design.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Reminds me of Buick’s Thanksgiving sale: Only the vehicles that have been sitting around on the lot for too long were on sale. It immediately made me think, “Well, no discount on the Encore, Enclave, or Verano. It will be a LaCrosse and Regal sale.”

    Notice only one of those hot sellers for Buick is a sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I test drove the new Sonata the day before Thanksgiving and had found myself in the adjacent Buick Stealership to discuss something with a woman who had asked for my help negotiating a price for her on a new Buick.

      Well, as I do the whole routine I began to notice the dealership is selling what seems to be an unholy amount of new vehicles as evidenced by the ringer/buzzer type thing they had that went off when someone purchased a vehicle.

      Sure enough, I discover they’re discounting some Buicks by around 25% off MSRP up front, no haggling, employee/supplier discount, or games involved, and I’m pretty certain there was room for more discounting.

      p.s. OT but why did the 2015 Ford F150 fuel economy article with the bright red Ford F150 on top disappear from TTAC?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Actually the Buick “Black Friday” deal, just like the GMC deal is 20% off of MSRP cash back on “sedans in stock the longest”. So it does sound like there are some games involved since they don’t define exactly what “in stock the longest” is and if that varies from dealer to dealer. They do define the select models though 14 Verano 1SD, 14 Regal 1SL, and Lacrosse 1SL. http://www.buick.com/black-friday-sales-event.html?seo=goo_|_[account+name]_|_GMNA|US|BUI|GOOG|S|BD|A|BMM|RTN|BUI|DIV|%28null%29|%28null%29_|_Sitelink_Do_Not_Activate_|_%2Bbuick

        • 0 avatar

          I was curious about the GMC deal and noticed if you went to their website and searched local inventory, it would show you what specific units were available with the discount – ones that were not discounted would show a price, the others would have text that they were included.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        DW, there is a mapping glitch between pages three and four of this site, which skips all the previously posted articles and sends you back to October. As soon as new articles are posted, the older articles disappear into that page three to four black hole. I suspect you can still find the F150 article directly by going to the Ford specific listings at the bottom of the page.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Thanks Leek. You’re correct. Found the relevant article.

          I’m not blaming TTAC, and I’m not well-versed in IT & coding issues, but it seems as if there are new, serious glitches regarding comment submission, formatting issues, and now, even date/time entry errors, discovered weekly since the new WordPress version rollout.

  • avatar

    With the exception of Nissan, pretty much all of those brands are niche ones – Buick and Mini are sort of “near-luxury”, Subaru appeals to a small subset of people, and Mitsubishi is pretty much bought by people who couldn’t get financed for something better.

    It’s not my prefered vehicle, but I think a few mainstream brands in the segment could make sales go up considerably.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    The Buick Encore is a good example of a niche product (designed and built in Germany and Korea) salable in multiple markets. It was mostly aimed at the Chinese. It makes utterly no sense for me, but it has a very nice interior and drives OK.

    In 50 years people may be restoring them for car shows. Somehow I doubt it, but who knows?

  • avatar
    praeliber

    I think most people underestimate how much “compact suv” (cuv…) Grew fast. My dad just traded his second gen rav4 (2001) for a trax. They are so close to each other when you compare the spec, inches away when not identical in size, same weight, close power numbers (but torquier little turbo and 6spd make it seem peppier), etc. For a retire like him, going bigger than is 2001 rav4 didn’t make sense, the trax is size and power wise in the same ballpark has is older Toyota. People don’t buy those to get smaller, they actually refuse to buy bigger….

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    I can’t imagine trading off the handling that comes with a low centre of gravity just for the benefit of sitting a little higher in one of these tippy shopping carts. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      Lol, this isn’t a 1988 Ford Bronco II we are talking about. I know, I had mine up on 2 wheels with every backroads S curve on the way to school growing up.

      I’m sure you can roll modern CUV, but there’s a direct relationship between how fun they are to drive and how easily you can tip them and not a single soul on the planet is comparing the subcompact CUV market to, say, a Toyota Supra.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        It may actually depend on the model. When you look at something like the Juke, or the Paceman (particularly the JCW version, but even the S version) you’re talking about a very different class of handling, approaching that of a low center of gravity car (though you still obviously have a higher center of gravity).

        Porsche proved it could be done with the Cayenne, Mazda reinforced it when the CX-5 actually handled it well.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        The CUV drivers who like to tail gate and weave through traffic sure seem to be comparing these to Toyota Supras. IMHO, this segment seems most prone of the current segments to attracting customers who like to ride your back bumper and drive like (censored). Before I get attacked I’m not talking about everyone who drives one, just a small but very noticeable sub-segment. Thanks!

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      A lot of us came from large SUVs into the CUVs, from that perspective CUVs are nimble sports cars

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Don’t drive CUVs like a 14 year-old who just stole Grandpa’s Veloster and all will be well.

      Wait.. a grandfather buys a Veloster? Must take a LOT of chondroitin.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Not really. He married young, and his daughter was a slut. That’s all it takes to be a grampa at a relatively young age.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        Or maybe Grandpa never quit playing baseball and basketball and dancing with Grandma?

        Even if the average 65-year-old has a worn-out bound-up body, there are a lot of people who aren’t average.

        I wonder if we’ll get 2+2 subcompact hatches like we used to based on the new subcompact sedans. C-segment is the “right size” for the auto industry. Big enough to get enough structure to do well in all the crash tests, small enough to pass CAFE and EU rules and compete on mileage, sophisticated enough to charge non-Yugo money for.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      My Trooper was “tippy”. A Land Cruiser is “tippy”. The compact CUVs are not. I drive mine like a slot car…

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    What I see in this chart are a bunch of manufacturers chasing small volumes in a crowded new segment which is largely driven by fashion.

    It also makes me question when they come up with BS like there being no market for manual transmissions or wagon body-styles in the U.S. Call me naive, but it seems to me that chasing small volumes (and passionate buyers) by importing an optional transmission or body style already being made for another continent has a higher ROI than spending billions developing a useless car/truck niche because everyone else is doing it.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The difference between making a new class of vehicle and offering an option, AFAICS, is that growth in emerging segments is driven by non-“car people”.


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