In The SUV Sales Race, Boring Is King

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
in the suv sales race boring is king

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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  • Easton Easton on Oct 10, 2012

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

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Oct 11, 2012

      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.

  • CelticPete CelticPete on Oct 13, 2012

    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).

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.