Not All Senior Citizens Want to Retire: GM's Lambda and Theta Crossovers Too Successful to Stop Working
Nine years ago, General Motors began selling two different vehicles off its full-size Lambda platform, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.
Remember the Outlook? Of course you don’t.
By 2007, GM was also selling the Buick Enclave. By the end of 2008, GM added the Chevrolet Traverse.
Now it’s late 2015. GM is still selling the first generation of their Lambda platform crossovers. A lot of them.
GM also continues to sell the six-year-old versions of their Theta platform crossovers, as well. A lot of them. More than they’ve ever sold before.
People are living longer, healthier lives. Their 401Ks aren’t necessarily worth what they need to be. Their children won’t move out. As a result, people are working many years longer than their ancestors did.
We’ve become accustomed to the cyclical nature of a vehicular nameplate’s rise and fall: sales typically decrease as the vehicle ages and surge when a new generation is launched. But not all vehicles fall victim to the cycle. Just as your personal banking representative is a 68-year-old grandmother of four and not a recent graduate of a state university, GM’s five oldest utility vehicles don’t want to retire, either.
Benefiting from thoroughly established name recognition, appropriate pricing, a measure of fleet volume, and a boom in the SUV/crossover market, GM is selling boatloads of Acadias, Enclaves, Equinoxes, Terrains, and Traverses. (Not so many Outlooks.)
The year will certainly be the highest-volume year ever for the Acadia, Traverse, and Equinox and will almost certainly be the best year for the Enclave and Terrain, as well.
Combined, the Equinox and Terrain outsold the best-selling utility vehicle in America, Honda’s CR-V, by nearly 41,000 units in the first ten months of 2015. The duo’s sales have risen 14 percent, year-over-year, in 2015.
GM averaged fewer than 100,000 annual Equinox sales per year over the nameplate’s first six years, but more than 275,000 Equinoxes will likely be sold by the end of 2015. This year will be the Equinox’s sixth consecutive year of U.S. sales growth. The refreshed 2016 Equinox does not appear to be sufficiently differentiated, yet consumers have proven to be sufficiently appreciative of the way the current model looks and drives.
The Equinox’s fraternal twin from GMC, the Terrain, has grown its U.S. sales every year since its launch in 2009. More than 105,000 were sold in 2014, but GMC is on track to sell more than 110,000 in 2015. The Terrain’s Pontiac predecessor, the Torrent, topped out at 43,000 U.S. sales in 2006.
Despite the Lambda platform’s lack of a Saturn sibling — one wonders how the platform ever managed to survive! — more than 275,000 Acadias, Enclaves, and Traverses should be sold in America by the end of 2015.
GM’s six full-size, body-on-frame, truck-based, highly profitable SUVs are still relatively popular vehicles. GM should sell at least 230,000 Tahoes, Suburbans, Yukons, Yukon XLs, Escalades, and Escalade ESVs in 2015. But the size of their sphere of influence has waned. GM sold 210,000 Tahoes alone in 2002.
GM has made headway in the other direction. More than 120,000 Buick Encores and Chevrolet Traxes should be sold in the U.S. in calendar year 2015, a massive leap forward from not a single subcompact crossover sale just three years ago.
In addition to the mainstream Theta sales, General Motors also sold 56,732 Cadillac SRXs in 2015 so far, a year which will likely end with an annual SRX sales record. That vehicle, despite its age, outsells every other Cadillac by far.
What does all of this mean inside GM showrooms across America? The Lambda platform trio generates nine percent of GM’s U.S. volume; the Equinox and Terrain another 13 percent. The quintet accounts for more than one in five GM sales, precisely four times the number of Cadillac sales, and one out of every ten SUVs and crossovers sold in the United States.
In other words, they’re important. Maybe even, dare we say it, spry.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.
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