By on September 13, 2018

mazda cx-5

America knows what it wants, and the rest of the world — even those hard-to-reach places — is beginning to follow. Each week brings us news from far-flung locales pointing to increased demand for affordable crossover vehicles, if not the wholesale abandonment of certain car segments by certain automakers. Basically, the global auto industry in 2018 boils down to this: build a crossover, or become (or remain) a struggling niche company.

It’s hardly a new situation, but it’s hammered home with each passing month — as cars continue trickling out of every parking lot you pass and trunks begin appear on “Missing” posters at the post office.

Given that the compact crossover is arguably the most ubiquitous vehicle on the roads today, your author decided to look at just how prevalent their sales really are. Tossing aside premium or luxury offerings (a category we’ve tossed Buick into), this data dive focuses solely on the mainstream. The results? It’s grim stuff if you’re not the family type, so brace yourself.

Sales figures from the month of August suggest you’re probably sitting across from a sales manager in a dealership right now, signing on the dotted line for a two-row, high-riding, front-drive-biased vehicle.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: Volkswagen

Sales of mainstream compact crossovers — a group that includes the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Nissan Rogue, (next-gen) Volkswagen Tiguan, Jeep Compass, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tiguan, Kia Sportage, and Mazda CX-5 — totalled 221,912 units last month, or 14.97 percent of the 1,482,268 total vehicles sold in the United States in August. We’ll round that up to 15 percent.

Compared to sales of all passenger cars, regardless of type, this particular crossover segment amounted to 49 percent of that total. Nearly half. Add in other crossovers, SUVs, and trucks of every size and price point, and cars shrink down to just 30.6 percent of all automobile sales last month. A year prior, the segment’s market share was 37 percent.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure - Image: Toyota

Now, there’s a degree of inaccuracy in these figures. As General Motors only dishes out its sales reports on a quarterly basis, the figures for the Equinox and Terrain are averaged from Q2 volume. August could have brought on a spike compared to the monthly average from April, May, and June; it also could have been less. As well, because Nissan doesn’t unbundle Rogue and Rogue Sport volume, we’re including the smaller vehicle here, noting that it’s still larger than a subcompact. Volkswagen’s now-dead Tiguan Limited, a previous-gen holdout, doesn’t make the cut, and should serve to cancel out at least some Rogue Sport volume.

Still, the broader picture is accurate.

Nissan announces U.S. pricing for 2018 Rogue Hybrid

Over the first eight months of 2018, roughly 1,700,872 Americans drove home from the dealer in one of these ubiquitous people movers. That’s 14.84 percent of all the vehicles sold during that period. Cars, on the other hand, amounted to 32.6 percent. If August’s results are any indication of a trend (of course they are), compact crossovers are catching up to cars at a steady clip.

Just imagine what hand-me-downs 18-year-olds will be driving in a decade’s time. There’ll be rivalries among owners of domestic and foreign crossovers in the high school parking lot, where battles between rusty Mazda Protegés and rattly Chevrolet Cavaliers once raged. Girls (and perhaps some guys) might get a little weak at the knees after seeing the football star arrive in his used RAV4 Adventure Edition.

Strange times.

[Images: Mazda, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan, General Motors]

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51 Comments on “Shocked? One in Six Vehicles Bought Last Month Was a Compact, Mainstream Crossover...”


  • avatar
    gasser

    “Hyundai Tiguan”???????????

  • avatar
    gtem

    I mentioned this in the “guilty pleasures” QOTD, but I just rented a higher trim CX5 for a late evening 4 hour drive from NYC on Sunday and I was amazed at how refined and premium-feeling it was to drive and sit in. Very confident over uneven wet pavement at higher speeds cruising down the Whitestone Bridge Expressway. Awesome interior (aside from the too-wide center console and MMI-style control), very well controlled NVH and well sorted ride. Very un-Mazda like per the stereotype of Mazdas being overly stiff and loud. The biggest shortcoming was the 2.5NA motor, just not enough power for this much weight, most noticeable in the city in cut-and-thrust NYC traffic, tolerable on the highway. Blame the transmission perhaps, it tries its best to keep the torque converter locked up but then relents and the revs shoot up. On the highway it gear hunted endlessly on hills. Honda’s old 4spd auto had gear-hunting prevention in the 80s. The back seat and cargo area were noticeably less roomy than my in-laws’ ’13 Rav4. But compared to that Rav4 the interior in the CX5 may as well have been from an Audi or something. Same goes for the ride, which is absurdly harsh in the Rav.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      yeah the Rav4’s ride is just atrocious. I don’t know how anyone can test drive the Rav4 and say “yeah this feels fine to me”. Only way I can explain it is Rav4s are sold to people who only buy Toyotas and don’t shop anything else(which is the case of the only two Rav4 owners I know personally)

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        That’s basically what my in-laws did, they downsized from an ’05 Highlander Limited, which was a terrific vehicle for them, bought new and ran up to 170k with minimal repairs outside of maintenance, and they got something like $7k on trade. I think they got caught up in looking at MPG numbers and thought “great, almost the size of the old Highlander but much better mpg, and we can still get it as a Limited.” Well that Rav is basically reviled in that family. The old Highlander had a much better interior in terms of materials, rode well, etc. The Rav’s glovebox handle failed at 60k miles and it seems par for the course per the forums. Just a hatefully cost-cut car, an insult to traditional Toyota buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        forward_look

        According to Consumer’s Reports, Toyota makes all perfect vehicles, and all American cars are crap.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          I know a few people with that same attitude. They got tired of having to drive wooden wedges into the top of their Buick Lesabres, etc to permanently seal broken windows shut or sealing them shut with duct tape because they couldn’t stand spending $$$ every time a window regulator failed. They now drive Toyota’s.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      What you write about CX5 is very similar my experience owning a 2015 Mazda6. The 2.5na is certainly fuel efficient, but its throttle response and power/torque production is lazy, at best–even with the manual trans in my car.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I think the new RAV4 may ride better than the 2013 you speak of. I had a new RAV4 as a rental a couple of months ago, and I liked it pretty well. The ride and handling seemed fine to me .. I would categorize them as “better than expected” (whatever that means). My expectations may be different from others’, but I like to think I would notice if the ride was really bad.

      I haven’t tried out the CX5 yet, but I would expect it to drive quite well based on its similarity to the other Mazda models, which I have driven and greatly enjoyed. I imagine the 2.5 would feel a little lazy in a SUV body, but I think it’s a decent engine. Just not an inspiring engine in a car that size.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      It wasn’t until 2017 or 2018 did Mazda add hundreds of pounds of sound insulating acoustic glass and sound absorbing throughout the rest of the car. So the model year of the version you drove is important because before that they were rough and loud.

      Check out TFL old and new CX-5 drag race where the older, lighter one blows the doors off of the newer, heavier one.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    It’s a good time to be a sedan buyer. There are multiple manufacturers offering midsize sedans for 1/3 off.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Between 1975 and 1976, 1.5 million “Pet Rocks” were sold in the U.S. at $4 a whack. These compact CUV sales numbers only reinforce P.T. Barnum’s mantra.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I don’t see it that way. Buyers value a higher seating position. They also like more headroom. Buyers are receiving value for their investment—even if you don’t share their interest in these types of vehicles (I don’t either).

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Yes, the turn towards utilites started in the 1990s and has only gotten stronger over the years, turning into an absolute dominating force in the past few years.

        But, some will be obtuce and continue to refer to it as a “fad” or “temporary”. It amounts to wishful thinking. It wont change reality, but it makes them feel better (apparently, either that or they simply feel justified in being p¡ssed off at everyone else).

        These are also the guys who complained about boring beige Camrys and Tauruses a decade or two ago. “Why can’t everyone drive what I like?!?!” Well, probably because you wouldn’t like it anymore if it were that popular, and you’d just find something else to b¡tch about. If SUVs were a niche market, and say, minivans were absurdly popular, everyone would be singing the praises of the SUVs and downing the boring minivan.

        It’s the same reason these same people come out swinging with every article on not-Toyota pickups. They study the vehicle and try to find reasons to justify their unjustifiable hate of it. The reasons they cite are petty and frivolous, the complaints are for the sake of complaining. Its stubbornness in its purest form, and yet they’re oblivious to it. These vehicles wouldn’t be so popular if the complaints they scream were valid, or of any real concern to the market base.

        Back to utilities for a moment: Does a Camry REALLY handle that much better than a Highlander? Or, lets go further, would a (brown?) Camry wagon drive that much better? Would the difference in driving dynamics be at all perceptible to the 40s housewife actually tasked with driving it every day? Would she care? Would she care enough to give up the higher driving position she prefers? Of course not. So long as it doesn’t go flying off the road when being driven normally at or near the speed limit, they don’t care. They like how it looks, they like the feeling of being up higher than a car, it gets reasonable fuel mileage, and it suits their needs for space and comfort. That’s all that matters. A little more body roll, 2 mpg worse, its all pretty much a rounding error for them. If handling was so important, the Mazda6 and Camry would occupy each other’s place on the sales charts. But, they don’t. It’s not a priority for most people. Its so far down on the list of concerns, its barely worth mentioning.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    America (and Canada) have spoken, they want high-riding, 4WD crossovers and no amount of hand-wringing or pearl clutching is going to change that

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      (Stares longingly at his old glossy coffee table books of cars of the 40s, 50s, and 60s – filled with sedans and wagons.)

      Sigh… yeah, I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Don’t worry, it’ll get much worse very soon.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          But then it will get better, because everyone knows that kids never want to drive the same car as their parents, so when today’s kids grow-up they’re going to hate crossovers like their parents hated mini-vans and their grandparents hated station wagons

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Nah. I do think CUVs will lose the market in the next decade. But what’s coming after them are going to be “mobility solution” pods.

            thetruthaboutcars.com/2018/09/mercedes-benzs-hideous-new-mobility-concept-isnt-all-that-new/

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “(Stares longingly at his old glossy coffee table books of cars of the 40s, 50s, and 60s – filled with sedans and wagons.)”

        The 1940 Plymouth wagon was 3″ taller than a CX-5. I hate to break it to you, but those things WERE crossovers.

    • 0 avatar
      forward_look

      For folks my age, laying down to drive and trying to get in and out of the freaking thing is a literal pain in the neck. The only other option is a truck.

      How else can I get my wife to trade in her Caliber??

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Her what?

        • 0 avatar
          forward_look

          2008 Caliber. Most reliable car we’ve ever had. We love the CVT (it’s Toyota) and she’s killed two MoPar trannys in the past. The only bad part is it rolls like a canoe in a hurricane. Pretty good for its time, but now no FCA vehicle interests me.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            The suspension is probably worn out, and may have even been overly soft from new. Try some new KYB struts. I have been amazed at how well they mitigated body roll on a number of vehicles I’ve installed them on. I didn’t know a strut/shock could make that much difference in that regard. Make sure the stabilizer bar links and bushings are tight and change those if necessary at the same time.

            If the struts are original, I’m sure any new ones would be dramatic improvement.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            FWIW the CVT is a Jatco (Nissan).

          • 0 avatar
            forward_look

            Yeah, I changed one strut but it made no difference, and the stabilizer and mounts are OK. For once, the old dealer lie “they all do that, it’s normal” is probably correct.

            Yeah, JATCO is Nissan, I forgot that. Her dad fought in The War, and when she bought her first car, a Datsun 1200 with automatic (rolls eyes) he never stopped bitching about “they’re made outta melted down B-25s”.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Come further south, and the “4wd” part magically disappears.

      I am not a crossover person. If I were to buy a new vehicle, as I’ve said many times, it would not be a crossover. The only current crossover I’d remotely be interested in would be the Renegade, and that is simply because it offers something resembling genuine off-road ability.

      A genuine SUV would be interesting, but I would be more likely to buy a sporty coupe or a pickup. I just bought an older 4wd crew can pickup, so that would probably mean I’d be more likely to consider something like a Civic Si, Subaru BRZ, etc.

      However, I’m not the typical car buyer. I’m a single gay man into the outdoors and fixing up older vehicles. I have no kids, I don’t live in the snow belt, and therefore a Rav4 or Escape has 0 appeal to me. I need (or rather want) 4wd because I go places its needed, like muddy washed out trails, etc, not snowy parking lots or side roads in town. If I suddenly found myself in need of a family vehicle, then I’d have to reconsider, but a crossover may still not be a candidate. I wouldn’t rule it out, though.

      However, unlike many here, I don’t feel that just because it doesn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean I can’t see why it appeals to others. People are going to buy what they want, and so they should. I drive a sedan and I like it, but I get why it seems like a limiting choice for some. There are times when I’ve needed to carry objects that would not fit in the trunk or back seat. That’s one reason why I have a truck now, although an older BOF SUV (namely an early Explorer) was on my list before I happened upon this crewcab truck.

  • avatar
    Gregaryous2

    Mfgrs that are giving away cars at 1/3 off will be out of that business shortly.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    I’m surprised it is ONLY 1 in 6 – seems higher than that in real life. When I get bored on road trips, I count the numbers of ‘cars’ vs ‘SUV/CUVs’ and pick ups. In real life, out on the open road ‘inventory’, it seems no more than 30-40% of the vehicles are ‘cars’…Often you’ll go half a dozen vehicles in a row that are SUV/CUVs or pickups.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      He’s talking about only compact CUVs, that isn’t including the likes of Explorer, Grand Cherokee, Pilot, etc. Overall, the picture is much worse (depending on your POV) for cars.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    That CX5 pictured there is not a mainstream crossover. Only brainy people buy it

  • avatar
    ddr777

    I drive a 2016 Accord with a lease ending very soon, naturally, I went to a Honda dealer to test driver 2 vehicles, 2018 Accord and 2018 CR-V.
    After driving some bigger SUV’s like Durango and Explorer, I thought I might go with an SUV, the Accord and CR-V are priced similarly and I’m not into paying the higher price for a Pilot, I was so disappointed with the CR-V in comparison to the Accord, it’s harsher, it’s noisy and it’s hard to believe they use the same 1.5 engine, it feels much better and smoother in the Accord, the Accord rides so much better!

    • 0 avatar
      Eliyahu

      I drive a 2014 Accord EX-L and tested the 2018 Accord Hybrid and the CR-V EX. I liked the Accord’s seats better, as did my passenger. About 2 years I rented a CX-5 and a RAV-4 each for a week. Almost all suburban driving or in traffic on the freeway. I was surprised at how much I liked both of them. A year prior, I rented a 2015 RAV-4 for the weekend to test it for a possible purchase. It was so uncomfortable, I turned it after a few hours.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      What model CRV? I drove a 16′ and 17′ EXL and Touring and they were pretty nice. I got a ’16 Special edition (similar to an LX) once as a loaner and it felt down graded.

  • avatar
    ACCvsBig10

    Looks like these compact are not being so compact anymore. Seems like most of them have been redesigned recently growing anywhere from 2-4 inches then their last gen, making them more midsize like.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Does seem to be more than 1 in 6 on the roads.

    But I do believe that the trend will pass, just as wagons and minivans have.

    What will be the next trend? Who knows. Tall fastbacks were my bet, are high but look a bit less SUV like. See the likes of the Jaguar iPace or Russian market Renault Arkana.

  • avatar
    darex

    I, personally, do not understand all the hate for compact CUVs. I think they’re great. Trunks are impractical and stupid, and a slightly taller seating height makes ingress/egress easier and sightlines better. I’m glad N.A. has finally embraced the “hatch”. Many of these drive great, like the MINI Countryman/BMW X1, or Mazda’s offerings. Sure, many are tending to resemble one another, but that’s nothing new.

    Once you’ve owned a compact CUV, it’s hard to imaging ever going back to a different style of vehicle.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    My family is the oddball. 2/3 of our vehicles are cars. Stickin’ it to the man!!! And even more oddball, my wife went from minivan to sedan.

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