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.

Consumers purchased and leased nearly 610,000 SUVs and crossovers* in July. There was a significant 8 percent year-over-year increase during a month in which new vehicle volume barely expanded beyond its July 2015 output.

July 2016 also claimed a 9-percent year-over-year decline in passenger car volume*. That 57,000-unit decrease in car sales, married to the 46,000-unit SUV/crossover sales improvement, means utility vehicles outsold cars in the United States for the first time in July 2016.

USA auto market share chart July 2016

It takes two to tango. For this outcome to arise, an increase in SUV/crossover demand would not be sufficient. Compared with July 2015, combined U.S. sales of 17 moderate-to-high volume cars — 200, Dart, Impala, 300, Taurus, Cruze, LaCrosse, 4 Series, Avalon, Q50, Altima, Malibu, Camaro, Fiesta, Corvette, Optima, Golf — plunged by more than 46,000 units, a 30-percent loss that certainly offset modest gains from top sellers such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Nissan Sentra.

(All 17 of those cars produced more than 2,000 July sales, hence the use of the relative “volume” term, and all declined by at least 20 percent, year-over-year.)

Meanwhile, other popular cars posted notable declines. The Toyota Camry slid 11 percent, Honda Accord sales were down 7 percent, and the Ford Fusion, Ford Focus, Hyundai Sonata, and Hyundai Elantra combined for nearly 9,000 lost sales.

As a result of these losses and many others, the passenger car sector’s market share tumbled four points from 43 percent in July 2015 to 39 percent in July 2016, losing a full point of market share compared with June 2016, as well.

The ever-broadening SUV/crossover sector, however, increased its share of the U.S. auto industry’s new vehicle sales volume from 37 percent one year ago to 40 percent in July 2016. Gains were produced in almost every corner. 15 of the 20 top-selling utility vehicles in America produced more sales in July 2016 than in July 2015.

Subcompact crossovers from Buick, Chevrolet, Honda, Jeep, and Mazda combined for a 40-percent, 10,000-unit year-over-year increase in July. Land Rover, the only premium brand that bothers not with passenger cars, jumped 21 percent. Cadillac’s SRX-replacing XT5 forsook its gradual start to claim second spot among premium brand SUVs/CUVs in July. Sales of the GM-controlled full-size SUV sector jumped 24 percent.

2016 Mazda CX-3

Yet the biggest factor behind the SUV/crossover sector’s rapid July growth was the explosive advances made by a handful of the most popular utility vehicles in America.

The Honda CR-V, America’s top-selling utility vehicle in the last four years, set an all-time monthly record with 36,017 July sales, a 13-percent year-over-year increase worth 4,232 additional sales.

The Nissan Rogue, which grabbed second spot in July with 33,298 sales, also set an all-time record, adding 8,217 sales to the SUV/crossover sector’s ledger compared with July 2015.

July’s third-ranked Toyota RAV4, the leading utility vehicle through the first seven months of 2016, broke its July record with 31,871 sales, a 19-percent year-over-year increase.

The tale at the top of the heap tells the story.

America’s three leading utility vehicles jumped 21 percent in July, producing 101,186 sales, 2,166 more than the three top cars.

The volume generated by America’s three leading passenger cars collectively slid 5 percent.

Look to your leaders.

*For the purposes of these tabulations, we included estimates for the Tesla Model S (2,400) and Model X (1,500).

[Image: Land Rover, Mazda]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, 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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50 Comments on “July Makes It Official: Americans Buy More SUVs/Crossovers Than Cars...”

  • avatar

    And, of course, the drop in gas prices is behind it all. Can’t wait until demand pushes it back to four bucks a gallon!

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Not really. We’re at the point where fuel economy is quite decent on most FWD-based crossovers. People will continue to be able to afford them.

    • 0 avatar
      SD 328I

      Unlikely, as mentioned already because fuel economy is much better with crossovers/suvs now. Even some full size trucks are in the 25-29 mpg range.

      Factor in people are no longer shocked by high gas prices and the knee-jerk sell off of big cars when gas prices goes up is even less likely.

      Also, $4 bucks a gallon isn’t likely with whats’ going on in the oil market, at least not for a very long time. The Saudis vs Frackers have changed that.

      • 0 avatar

        While fuel economy for crossovers have improved, buyers generally move down one segment size (Accord to CR-V and not Pilot) which keeps the price-point and fuel economy similar.

        As an aside, while H/K’s sales % is still skewed more to cars than for the industry norm, they have seen pretty hefty increases in sales of the SF Sport, Tucson and Sportage as supply has increased.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I really don’t think gas prices will affect the CUV surge. This is a global trend.

      CUVs are not really that bad on fuel. Vehicle size will be affected more so than vehicle types.

    • 0 avatar


      Why are we looking forward to $4/gal gas again? Because people are buying vehicles you personally don’t approve of?

      Besides the CUV surge isn’t being driven by fuel prices; its being driven by image and utility


      I don’t think going from an Accord to CR-V is really a size down to most folks as the CR-V basically has the same interior room and better cargo capacity. In terms of utility its a size up.

  • avatar

    I’ve read elsewhere that Europe is seeing an increase in CUV/SUV sales. Which is going to make it tougher for us car lovers to find what we like.

  • avatar

    The real ESUVEE…

    Ain’t safety campaigns something else? I’ll remind the B&B that this was sponsored partly by the Attorney General’s of all 50 states.

  • avatar

    Site name change soon required – The Truth About Trucks

  • avatar

    Crossing over is a euphemism for death.

  • avatar

    Now I want to see the pie chart adjusted for FWD crossovers, which are actually just hatchbacks – and thus are passenger cars.

    BOOM, passenger cars way in the lead again.

  • avatar

    I’d be more gratified by this news if CUVs weren’t being steadily diminished by less ground clearance and sloped rear roofs.

    Everything is normalizing into the space once held by ’40s sedans but with stubbier noses.

  • avatar

    Good news, then…those of us who won’t buy these will get a better deal on other types of cars.


    Seriously, folks…that CX-3 in that picture is, essentially, a Scion iA with AWD, a hatchback, and a bigger engine…for about around four grand more (more like seven grand in real-world pricing, as Scion is giving away the iA). And having driven both of them, I can tell you the CX-3 isn’t four grand more car.

    Automakers have figured out how to game us pretty well.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, that’s just as how you’ll pay way more for an HR-V than you would a Fit, and in my mind, the Fit feels quite solid compared to the flimsiness of the HR-V.

      I don’t know who is paying $27K for these loaded subcompact crossovers; I’d take whatever CX-5 variant I could get for the same money, instead…probably a nicely-equipped Touring.

      Kia’s pricing is downright reasonable on the Soul. Of course, the Soul cannot be had with AWD, and so it loses a bit of its “SUV” cred for that. I actually though the thing was just a hatchback until my grandmother bought a 2014 Soul, and I saw how they were marketing it,

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        I don’t understand the longevity of the suv thing and I ski over 20 days per year.

        The studless snow tires today are much better than the studded tires I used in the late 80s, particularly on ice, which would be the main justification for an suv for most buyers. Jack Baruth wrote a good article about the reasons why.

        If logic meant anything 4x4would/AWD would have about the market share it had in 1965, plus a tiny increment for ultra powerful machines that need it for control purposes.

    • 0 avatar

      Nailed it.

      A lot of people driving an SUV would probably do just fine in a platform mate but hey, if they’re willing to pay a few grand to ride 2-3 inches higher and take the performance hit – more power to them. Consumption keeps the economy churning.

    • 0 avatar

      Your comparison is a little off. Generally speaking, crossovers don’t compete with the cars they are based on; they compete with the cars a class up. A CR-V is every bit a match/replacement for the Accord, despite being based on the Civic.

      The subcompact CUV class is a bridge too far though. The cars they are based on require small wheel wells and are already pretty narrow. I’m guessing remaining in the subcompact category while retaining usable passenger space is what makes their trunks so useless. So they take a lot without giving much back. The compact CUVs on the other hand turn a compact into a midsizer passenger-wise, and triple the cargo space with the seats up. With most folks not needing more than 4-5 seats it’s a no brainer.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I can completely understand the attraction of CUVs, SUVs and I might add 75% of pickup sales that should also be included here. Even vans to a degree.

    These vehicles offer lifestyle choices to families and individuals that a car can’t offer. This is their attraction.

    A car might handle better, but I think you’ll find most who opt for a CUV would of been a station wagon/people move type. The SUV, a real SUV with 4hi and lo can be placed in two different categories.

    1. The person who wants to appear to be a little better heeled. The types generally just drive around to Lowes, supermarkets and Lowes, etc. Similar to a pickup person their justification for such large fuel consuming vehicles seem a little irrational to the “car” person.

    2. The camper, beachgoer, outdoorsy types. These people could be swayed into a pickup, but many want the SUV for comfort and additional security offered by the wagon style.

    The car is a dying breed. I’d say cars will gradually become smaller on average as more car people opt for CUVs as they do offer acceptable road manners and handling whilst giving a huge utility advantage.

    Looking at the pie graph, Australia’s percentage breakdown is very similar to the US. I just read an article on this a couple of days ago regarding the Australian vehicle market.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Big Al–Agree, cars are becoming irrelevant, there will be fewer choices in sedans and the full size car will eventually disappear entirely. There will even be less choices in midsize car offerings. Compact and subcompact cars will still be offered but they will have even less offerings. CUVs offer easier access and more flexibility. Also you might find more people buying crew cab midsize trucks.

  • avatar

    I see a different picture. Americans buy more cars and vans than suv’s and crossovers.

    • 0 avatar

      Because the Chevy Express is just like a Camaro, right? WINNING! Better an Express than a Traverse, its clearly the enthusiasts choice.

      Yay people buying the Ram ProMaster! Glad they didn’t get a terrible Durango instead, because everyone knows a van is more about performance and driving fun than an SUV.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A compact CUV still gets fairly good mpgs and offers more room to haul things than a similar sized sedan. Also most newer sedans have coupe like styling sacrificing headroom. CUVs also offer all wheel drive which is very useful in Winter in the colder climates. It is much easier to get in and out of a CUV versus most sedans. There is more to a crossovers than being an in type of vehicle. Crossovers are a good compromise in that they are multi purpose like a Swiss Army knife. If one has enough money and space then you could own several vehicles that would do the same thing as one crossover, but most people do not have that option. Since there are few station wagons available then a crossover is the next logical choice.

    • 0 avatar

      STOP making so much sense.

      I am not a crossover kinda guy, but I’m not the target anyway (no kids). If I bought a new vehicle today, it would not be a crossover even if they were 50% off. But, I do understand why people buy them. They are less compromised than a sedan, more useful and usually don’t ask much in the way of giving up performance.

      At least, they don’t give up much in the way of performance that matters to most car buyers. Maybe its slower to 60 than a car with the same engine. Maybe it doesn’t do as well on the slalom course. But, people don’t buy a family vehicle for its 0-60 times, they buy it because it fits their needs. And something with more passenger and cargo space than a sedan with just a minor ding on mpg but similar driving characteristics wins.

  • avatar

    Sometimes, all it comes down to when choosing between CUV and sedan is whether you can get in the back seat without bumping your head, or whether anyone over 5’6″ can even sit in the back seat without hitting the ceiling.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I think you have hit the nail on the head about getting in the back seat of a sedan. The styling of the newer sedans is sharp looking but getting in and out of them without hitting your head is not that great. It would be nice to see a return to sedans that were easier to get in and out of. I don’t see sedans ever going away but there will be less choice.

    My favorite of the sedans that I have owned was my wife’s 2000 Taurus which was not too bad getting in and out of and which was a great car. I rented an Impala LTZ that was also a nice car. We now have a CRV which is our first crossover and it just seems to be a good fit for everything we need in a vehicle. There is a fair amount of cargo space when you put the rear seats down, fairly easy to get in and out of, good visibility, and AWD for the Winter. The CRV also gets decent mpgs and is fairly comfortable.

    • 0 avatar

      The sleeker styling of cars is driven largely by fuel economy regulations that are tougher for cars than trucks. Lower drag helps the mpgs, but makes vehicle entry/exit much more difficult, especially for older people that are an increasingly large share of the population – under 30s were a much larger portion of the population back in the longer-lower-wider 1960s.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    That is precisely why I might not ever have another sedan, I am getting older and it is harder to get in most of the newer sedans and the side and rear visibility is not very good. My concern is that those remaining sedans like the Accord and Camry will eventually be the same as the other sedans with slopping roofs and smaller windows. At least the lower wider cars of the 60’s had decent greenhouses and proper roof lines that made them easier to get in and out of. If anything there should be more head and leg room since the average person is physically bigger than people were 40 to 50 years ago. This same thing is true of airline seats which have gotten smaller with less leg room as the average person gets bigger.

  • avatar

    The RAV4 Hybrid should be high on anyone’s list, since it essentially eliminates the “CUV MPG Penalty”.

    It’s AWD, yet gets 10MPG more “city” rating, good acceleration, is only $2100 more than the FWD standard RAV4. All that with a “loss” of 2.8 cu. ft of cargo space behind the rear seats (35.6 vs. 38.4).

    Even with $2.50 gas, the payback period would be very short with a 10MPG better city mileage, and there is less-than-zero AWD penalty.

    I don’t like the term all that much, but, it’s a “no-brainer”.

    I challenge GM/Chevy to get some Volt tech into the next Equinox PRONTO.

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