By on August 12, 2017

2017 Hyundai Tucson - Image: HyundaiHyundai’s U.S. sales volume is down 13 percent through the first seven months of 2017, a year-over-year drop valued at 60,203 lost sales. Hyundai has fallen so quickly that its corporate partner, Kia, has managed to outsell Hyundai in America in each of the last three months.

But even with Hyundai sales falling nearly five times faster than the industry at large, and even with the two most popular products in the lineup — Elantra and Sonata — causing a 23-percent downturn in Hyundai passenger car sales, there’s good news to be heard out of Hyundai’s (shrinking) corner of the market.

The third-generation Tucson launched two years ago is a verifiable hit. Sales are perpetually rising. July 2017, in fact, was its best month ever.

But there’s bad news. Hyundai can’t get nearly enough Tucsons shipped across the Pacific from the compact crossover’s Ulsan, South Korea, assembly plant. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Trax and Sonic - Images: GMPerhaps we oversimplify it. Perhaps we don’t.

Take one Honda Fit or Chevrolet Sonic or Mazda 2, alter the exterior body panels, clad the wheel arches or bumpers in a modest amount of black plastic, periodically route power to the rear wheels without any fancy AWD systems, elevate the roofline, and increase ride height just a bit. Use a typical small car engine, the same transmissions, and many of the same interior bits.

The result: HR-V, Trax, CX-3. Call it a crossover. Dare even to call it an SUV.

And then, according to Kelley Blue Book, charge customers $7,700 more for the privilege. (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Equinox vs Impala/Cruze/Malibu - Images: GMIn June 2017, General Motors reported 29,182 U.S. sales of its Chevrolet Equinox, the company’s most popular non-truck model in America.

A 49-percent year-over-year improvement made June the best month for the Equinox since May 2015.

Combined with sharp declines from Chevrolet’s three mainline sedans, it also made the Equinox more popular in June than the Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu, and Impala combined.

As if we needed more evidence that Americans want crossovers, not cars. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

Mazda CX-8 interior - Image: MazdaThe Mazda CX-4 is essentially a more style-centric variant of the Mazda CX-5.

But you can’t have it. The Mazda CX-4 is for China alone.

The upcoming Mazda CX-8, meanwhile, straddles the middle ground between the CX-5 and CX-9: smaller than a CX-9, but still roomy enough to squeeze in a third row of seats, unlike the CX-5.

Our interest in the CX-8 was piqued when the right-hand-drive Mazda was seen parked on Chicago streets two months ago. But Mazda wouldn’t budge: this was no sign that the CX-8 was bound for America. Instead, the CX-8 is intended only to serve a purpose as Mazda’s large vehicle in Japan, where the CX-9 is too big.

It seems, however, that the Mazda CX-8 is destined for the export market after all. (Read More…)

By on July 5, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport - Image: NissanNissan reported 34,349 U.S. sales of the Rogue in June 2017, a 17-percent year-over-year increase that drove the Rogue to its third monthly victory in America’s SUV/crossover sales race this year.

But June was the first time since March in which the Rogue — sales of which have now increased in eight consecutive months — topped the utility vehicle segment.

What propelled the Nissan back into the top spot after a two-month hiatus?

Another Rogue. Mysteriously missing from Nissan’s June sales report, despite six weeks of sales activity, was the Nissan Rogue Sport, known in other markets as the Nissan Qashqai.

Disappointingly, for the purposes of U.S. sales reports, Nissan is combining sales of the Rogue and new Rogue Sport. Thus, we’re left to wonder whether the Rogue, on its own, was America’s best-selling SUV/crossover in June or if the Rogue requires an asterisk alongside its position in the victor’s column. (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2017

2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure - Image: ToyotaIn late 2015, Toyota revealed that the automaker’s increasingly popular RAV4 would be increasingly leaned upon for major U.S. sales volume.

As of five years ago, Toyota USA had never sold more than 200,000 RAV4s on an annual basis. Toyota didn’t touch the 300,000 marker until 2015.

But the goal set in 2015 was loftier: 400,000 U.S. sales of the RAV4 in 2018. An SE trim level helped. Then the RAV4 Hybrid became a real success. Toyota sold 352,154 RAV4s in 2016 and is on track for 380,000 sales in 2017.

What will put the Toyota RAV4 over the hump?

If all goes according to plan, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure that goes on sale in September won’t be a mere oddball offshoot. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue SL - Image: Nissan

In January 2017, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.

In calendar year 2016, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.

But in December 2016 and the preceding three months, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Nissan Rogue, sales of which rose to record November levels in 2016, record January levels last month, and all-time record levels of 40,477 units in December 2016.

Not the most powerful, refined, reliable, or dynamically competent, the Rogue is nevertheless Nissan’s most popular vehicle in America and a hugely consequential member of the SUV sector.

Yet the sheriff in town is wearing a new uniform, the Rogue is about to be joined by a new sibling, and 2017 is the second-generation Rogue’s fourth model year. Can Nissan continue to grow U.S. Rogue sales by more than 17 percent per month, and can Nissan make the Rogue America’s top-selling utility vehicle on a consistent basis? (Read More…)

By on November 22, 2016

2017 Honda CR-V/2016 Toyota RAV4 - Images: Toyota & Honda

Only once in the last nine years, and not once since the Ford Escape scored a victory in 2011, has the Honda CR-V failed to top America’s SUV/crossover sales leaderboard.

At its current pace, 2016 will be the Honda CR-V’s fifth consecutive year as America’s best-selling utility vehicle. Better yet, there’s an all-new Honda CR-V arriving for the 2017 model year. (We’ll post a First Drive Review of that CR-V on November 30th. –Ed.)

But Honda has little intention of ramping up CR-V production growth in 2017 simply to match the Toyota RAV4’s rapid ascent. (Read More…)

By on November 11, 2016

2016 Subaru Outback 25i LimitedIs it still a cult following if only six, undeniably mainstream utility vehicles are more popular?

Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford…

Subaru? While the U.S. auto industry dropped 6 percent in October 2016, losing nearly 90,000 sales compared with October 2015, the Subaru Outback soared to new heights.

If the Subaru Outback is the leader of a cult, as Dan Neil wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this fall, the cult is now big enough that we ought to call it a mainstream religion. (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2016

2016 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Summit California EditionAfter 35 consecutive months of year-over-year sales improvements, including an all-time monthly record of 90,545 reported sales in May 2016, Jeep’s streak came to an end in September 2016. Last month, U.S. Jeep volume slid 3 percent because of declines across much of the brand’s lineup.

Yet Jeep continues to sell more SUVs and crossovers than any other automotive brand in America, topping second-ranked Ford by 118,328 sales through the first three-quarters of 2016.

Together, Jeep, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, and Honda — the five highest-volume purveyors of SUVs/crossovers in the United States — own 52 percent of America’s utility vehicle market. That leaves less than half the available utility vehicle sales for more than 25 brands to divvy up. (Read More…)

By on September 28, 2016

2015 Jeep Renegade red

There’s a problem with subcompacts. All sorts of subcompacts.

Subcompact hamburgers. Subcompact basketball players. Subcompact beds. And especially subcompact crossovers.

After years of examining subcompact cars before purchasing a compact, you know the drill. With a subcompact, you save a little bit of money, realize negligible benefits at the fuel pump, and suffer sharp reductions in useable space, not to mention typical losses of power and refinement.

The burgeoning subcompact crossover market is no different. Sure, the base price of a typical all-wheel-drive subcompact crossover is roughly 15-percent lower than the base price of its all-wheel-drive compact sibling, but a handful of subcompacts are just as thirsty as their big brethren and some see catastrophic reductions in cargo capacity.

As a result, and as a general rule, TTAC is no fan of the subcompact crossover genre.

The value simply isn’t there — and we have some math to prove it. (Read More…)

By on September 23, 2016

2016 Mazda CX-9

Over the last two months, Mazda, that great tiny bastion of four-cylinder engines and SkyActiv and adding lightness, has sold more crossovers than cars in the United States.

Yes, that Mazda. The Mazda that had to rebadge Fords to bring its first two SUVs to market. The Mazda that, only four years ago, produced two-thirds of its U.S. sales with passenger cars.

Unfortunately, the gains now produced by Mazda’s CX crossover division aren’t enough to counteract the plunging sales of Mazda’s three remaining cars. As a result, Mazda’s U.S. market share is down to just 1.7 percent through 2016’s first eight months.

The good news for Mazda? Company bosses saw this coming. As part of a long-term strategy, Mazda is sticking to its guns, unwilling to overreact to disappointing short-term results with short-term fixes. (Read More…)

By on August 15, 2016

2015 Honda CR-V

Through the first seven months of 2016, the Honda CR-V is not the best-selling SUV/crossover in America.

This comes as some surprise for a vehicle that led the utility vehicle sector in eight of the last nine years, including each of the last four.

With a 16-percent year-over-year jump to 197,771 units through July, the Toyota RAV4 is the leader of the pack so far this year.

Yet after the RAV4 led the monthly SUV/crossover rundown in each of the first five months of 2016, the Honda CR-V narrowed the gap in June, outselling the RAV4 by 2,250 units to mark a turnaround at the end of the first-half.

Then in July, Honda reported the highest monthly CR-V sales total in the nameplate’s two-decade run. (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2016

2016 Land Rover LR4

Six months ago, we said, “It’s about to happen.”

Well, it happened.

Americans took possession of more new SUVs and crossovers than cars in July 2016, a forecasted turn of events nevertheless made jarring by its sudden dawn. (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2016

2016 BMW X4 M40i

U.S. sales of SUVs and crossovers grew 8 percent in the first-half of 2016, a gain of more than 240,000 units compared with the January-June period of 2015.

Producing a utility vehicle which transfers buyers from the passenger car sector to the SUV/crossover side of the ledger is almost as automatic as increasing ride height, installing body cladding, and inserting an X into the nomenclature.

Or is it? (Read More…)

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