By on July 8, 2013


June hosted a dramatic decline in the U.S. sales of traditional full-size sport-utility vehicles but also marked the end of a successful first half in which sales of these seven SUVs rose 7.9%.

Through the first six months of 2013, the biggest, baddest, “truck-based” SUVs grew at a pace that exceeded the 7.5% growth rate achieved by the overall new vehicle market. 1.5% of the automobiles sold in America this year have been Armadas, Expeditions, Sequoias, Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and Yukon XLs. As recently as 2010, more than 2% of the market belonged to these seven SUVs. As recently as 2006, they owned more than 3% of the market. And in 2003, little more than a decade ago, these seven SUVs accounted for 45 out of every 1000 new vehicles sold.

June 2013
June 2012
June % Change
6 mos. 2013
6 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Chevrolet Suburban
3813 5136 – 25.8% 21,663 23,068 – 6.1%
Chevrolet Tahoe
5790 6427 – 9.9% 40,857 33,274 + 22.8%
Ford Expedition
3211 3361 – 4.5% 17,741 18,613 – 4.7%
GMC Yukon
1797 2279 – 21.1% 12,105 12,662 – 4.4%
GMC Yukon XL
1824 2343 – 22.2% 14,704 8975 + 63.8%
Nissan Armada
1137 1763 – 35.5% 7381 9474 – 22.1%
Toyota Sequoia
1145 1093 + 4.8% 6693 6249 + 7.1%
22,402 – 16.4% 121,144 112,315 + 7.9%

Times have changed. That’s not news to casual observers, at least the observers who live outside of Texas or D.C., where individual buyers and motorcade fabricators have helped to keep the big SUV alive.

If you can, forget fleet volume for a moment in order to consider the likelihood that the next full-size SUV you see will be a General Motors product. GM’s June market share in the category fell slightly to 70.7% from 72.2% a year ago and 76.1% in May, when the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL both recorded significant upticks, the Yukon XL rising 182% year-over-year. All four GM nameplates recorded year-over-year decreases in June, as did the Ford Expedition and Nissan Armada.

Indeed, the majority of full-size SUV nameplates have recorded year-over-year decreases on year-to-date terms, as well. But the Tahoe’s extra 7583 sales, the Yukon XL’s extra 5729 sales, and the Toyota Sequoia’s slight 444-unit gains have propelled the segment forward.

The suggestion that fleet emphasis will destroy the large truck-based SUV segment ignores three key facts. First, automakers are capable of generating profits in smaller vehicle categories. Second, the whole commercial van category is designed for fleet customers or, at the very least, for clients who don’t use the vehicle as their personal car, and that’s a category that manufacturers are more hotly pursuing of late. Finally, these SUVs take their foundation from high-volume pickup trucks. Well, maybe not the Nissan, but you get the drift.

Including the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV, General Motors has sold 98,833 SUVs off the GMT900 pickup truck platform in America in the last six months. If that number isn’t sufficiently meaningful, remember the 330,219 Silverados and Sierras General Motors has also sold.

That said, the chart you see here clearly shows that this is a dying breed, regardless of whether the Secret Service or individual Texans make up the majority of buyers. While America’s best-selling vehicle has improved its share of the overall market from a decade-low of 3.9% (in 2008) to 4.7% in the first half of this year; while America’s best-selling car has steadily recorded market share totals between 2.4% and 3.4% over the last 126 months, these SUVs have lost two-thirds of their market share since 2003.

Buyers of three-row crossovers are far more numerous. By way of GM’s three Lambda-platform utilities, the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and the Toyota Highlander, six car-like siblings of these seven full-size SUVs have attracted 341,180 in the last six months.

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.


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26 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Return Of The Big, Bad, BOF SUVs...”

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I bet sales of mid-size SUV’s is up, I am seeing a lot of new ones on the road for the past few months.

  • avatar

    I see an awful lot of Buick Enclaves – I wish I had one, as I think that is the most beautiful SUV – crossover or not – ever made.

    These SUVs are the large land yachts of the past, as most cars are too small for many people.

    As far as trucks are concerned, my brother-in-law just bought a GMC standard cab, long bed pickup. It’s very nice, I must admit, and rides like a proverbial Cadillac of the past, even when empty! Makes me want a truck of my own, again…

  • avatar

    It would behoove automakers to stop treating uniframe CUVs as competition for BoF SUVs.

    The capabilities that came with SUVs is what brought the customers.

    People that want a true SUV as an all purpose vehicle are left in the dark
    GM has the best setup but are hurt by the lack of ground clearance, terribly problematic cyclinder deactivation Bs, and the Prius like plasticky front end, just to name a few.
    All in the name of gaining 2 mpg that the customers could care less about.

    • 0 avatar

      Most SUV customers never use that capacity (yeah, yeah… most car customers in general never use the full capacity of whatever they buy)… but given the huge size and capacity disparity between a BOF Suburban or Expedition and a unibody Explorer, it’s most likely that customers are consciously accepting the trade-off in capacity/capability for a smaller footprint and lower fuel bills.

    • 0 avatar

      In all actuality, SUVs simply don’t need to be BoF; they simply don’t get loaded as heavily as the pickup platform they’re based on. Not all that many people are willing to stuff the equivalent of a half-cord of wood in the back end of one. Loading one up with a thousand pounds of gear of any sort is unlikely, though admittedly they are good for towing a heavy camping trailer. Then again, pickup trucks do that more readily and even offer the capability of towing a fifth-wheel camper for even more comfort.
      Just as full-sized pickup trucks have eaten away at the full-sized SUV market, I expect the coming resurgence of mid-sized pickup trucks to eat away at the mid-sized SUVs, with the exception of those who actually need third-row capability. (I know a few families that large, but only a very, very few. In fact, I only personally know ONE family with 7 kids, so even three rows doesn’t work and they have to drive a 15 passenger van. A compact crew-cab pickup could serve many of these families the same way the full-sized crew cabs are taking the full-sized SUV market. Maybe better.

      What are SUVs anyway? I’ll tell you; A Jacked Up Station Wagon, not necessarily on Steroids.

      • 0 avatar

        If a full size SUV is just a jacked up station wagon, show me what station wagon has a solid rear axle, v8 engine a true transfer case, locking diffs, full on truck frame, etc?

        I would like to find a modern station wagon to compete with a modern SUV

        A family of 9 can fit into a Tahoe or suburban with the optional front bench.

        Also can’t imagine how a segment currently fleeing the US is going to make a 180 as the next big thing

        • 0 avatar

          So you’re trying to tell me ALL BoF SUVs have those? Sorry, they don’t. Sure, SOME do, maybe even most; but not ALL.

          And I was also talking about ALL SUVs, not just full-sized ones. Very few of the mid-size or smaller SUVs have all of the above and less than half of the ones sold have any form of 4WD–though the AWD systems on many models are “good enough”.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not just what they haul, but what they protect. And what they tow.

        The closed cargo area of a Suburban or Tahoe provides better protection to cargo than a pickup — even if the pickup has a cap. Maybe “security” is a better term. With heavy locking doors and limo tint to protect your payload from being, well, purloined, a Body-on-Frame SUV is far less likely to be jacked than something in a pickup bed. When you combine that with the drivability advantage over a full-size van and the versatility you get compared to a pickup, that big BOF SUV you malign is hard to beat.

        And while a fifth-wheel does offer towing advantages for the pickup truck, it causes a packaging nightmare with reduced space and a lot more grease and grime compared to an open bed with a hitch. If I was towing full-time, I’d definitely prefer the pickup — or low locking utility boxes like you’d see on a tow truck or service truck, and no pickup bed at all.

        But if I could be hauling stuff one day and hauling a trailer the next, the clear cargo space of a pickup or enclosed SUV and a Class III hitch offers the best all-around utility.

        • 0 avatar

          Maligning? Is that really how you see what I said about them? I didn’t malign them; I’m pointing out that these crew-cab pickup trucks are KILLING them! That’s a HUGE difference.

          I’m no fan of full-sized trucks, no matter whether they are SUV or pickup, but fully understand when somebody really does need that size for family and/or towing. However, not everybody needs or wants full-sized–as is clearly demonstrated by the huge numbers of mid-sized and smaller SUVs that themselves took a lot of market away from the full-sized models as well even before the crew-cab craze in pickup trucks today.

          People who used to drive station wagons moved to minivans. SUVs effectively killed the minivan market, with limited exceptions for larger families, taxicabs and compact cargo vans. Now the crew cab pickup is starting to eat into the SUV market, but mostly the full-sized ones. This does point out that if/when compact/mid-sized pickups return and if/when they retain an approximate $7,000-$10,000 price differential from the full-sized trucks (which they do even now) then many of those mid-sized/compact SUVs will go the way of the full-sized ones–not disappearing, but falling in demand to an actual level of NEED vs WANT.

      • 0 avatar

        I need room for four two American bulldogs all our camping gear real 4×4 locking diffs and to tow a camper and hang a plow off the front, if they made it I would buy it

    • 0 avatar

      Until the early ’90s SUVs were not considered family haulers and were able to peacefully co-exist with the wagons and minivans of the time.

      I don’t understand why the market hasn’t returned to that model now that the SUV craze has ended. Has the demand for SUVs truly evaporated? I suspect buyers who would be better served by SUVs are simply buying 4 door pickups due to lack of options.

      • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar

        You are right! I know, when I grew up, we had a family sedan (Chevy Lumina) and a 3/4 ton van (GMC conversion van). The sedan was for in-town stuff (shopping, going out to eat, small trips) and the van was for dad to drive to work, long trips, and to haul the boat or camper every weekend.

        I think large SUV’s started getting more refined and more appealing as daily drivers. Gas was cheap, so people started buying large SUV’s to haul groceries. Our neighbors had two kids and bought an Expedition for their around-town errands. They had no boat/camper/trailer. Go figure.

        I own a 2007 Pacifica, and I love it. It tows my utility trailer so I can haul lumber, soil, much, appliances, etc… and I can fit 6 people. Will it tow a 5,000 LB camper? Nope. Will it tow a 24′ pontoon boat? Nope. Will I have to take out a second mortgage to pay for fuel? Nope. I love the way it handles and THAT is what I would miss the most if I had to drive a Suburban, Expedition, or Armada every day.

      • 0 avatar

        The SUV “craze” hasn’t ended. Not yet, anyway. While the full-sized pickups are cannibalizing full-sized SUV sales, mid-sized and smaller SUVs are still selling strong and will continue until something “better” comes along–like a mid-size or smaller pickup truck.

        • 0 avatar

          Really? I can count the number of mid-sized SUVs available today on one hand. The only one selling in any quantity is the Wrangler, the rest have been left to die on the vine and have not received updates for the better part of a decade.

          Car-based CUVs have nothing in common with SUVs and are a completely separate category of vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        Ditching all the crazy labels, SUVs and CUVs are just the station wagons of today. Some are big, some are small, some are unibody, some are body on frame. The only difference is the branding.

        • 0 avatar

          I disagree.

          CUVs are tall station wagons.

          SUVs have powerful engines, 4×4, and beefier running gear to withstand the punishment of off-road driving.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree and you’ll start seeing those imposters in junkyards soon, just as much as you see decent condition FWD cars with blown up trans or engines not worth fixing. CUVs are truly a waste.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s why the retail price on good used excursions are still sky high when your only engine options are a v10 and a diesel even though gas is still within spitting distance of $4

    • 0 avatar

      Automakers classify unibody CUVs and BoF SUVs as comparable (except for size). Just as customers do. And so they become.

      The vast majority of SUV buyers are never going to go off-roading, or otherwise use the trucklike capabilities of the vehicle. They want a roomy family hauler that isn’t a minivan, or the image of a macho vehicle.

      When we moved to Atlanta, I was blithely informed by the leasing company we dealt with that 80+% of SUVs sold in the South are RWD, because the people who buy them never intend to leave the pavement, and don’t have to deal with snowy roads.

      If buyers aimply want the cachet of an SUV in a smaller package, they’ll buy a CUV or “small SUV”. And equate the two,just as autmakers encourage them to.

      And where is it written that an SUV must be body-on-frame? Unibody vehicles like the Ford Explorer and BMW X5 are sold as SUVs, which seems to bother the market not at all.

  • avatar

    Perhaps I’ve been laboring under a misapprehension but I thought that the Sequoia was just a unibody or monocoque copy of the true ‘body on frame’ Land Cruiser. No?

  • avatar

    What surprises me is that Nissan competes in every segment (unlike any other auto maker I can think of), even when they get a tiny share such as in true BoF SUV’s and trucks. Yet they persist.

  • avatar

    “Second, the whole commercial van category is designed for fleet customers or, at the very least, for clients who don’t use the vehicle as their personal car, and that’s a category that manufacturers are more hotly pursuing of late.”

    You forgot one full size van target market: Polygamists.

  • avatar

    Many of the above comments point out how a BOF SUV is appealing to someone who wants to carry more than five passengers, and wants to tow a heavy payload. But there is another demographic that is losing option choices: the off-road traveler. The Sequoia, Armada, Tahoe, Expedition, and other large SUVs are just too big to travel comfortably in the backcountry. Ten years ago, the options for midsized BOF SUVs with locking diffs and transfer cases was huge: Explorer, Trailblazer, Durango, Cherokee (not BOF but still trail worthy), 4Runner, Pathfinder, etc.

    Today, only the 4Runner and Xterra survived in their original forms. Every other competitor has gone crossover. The old Explorer was a highly capable rock-crawler, but I wouldn’t dare take the new one off-road. There is still a market for an SUV between the behemoths and the CUVs, as obviously shown by the fact that you cannot get any incentive or markdown on a new 4Runner anywhere in the mountain states.

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