America's Best-Selling SUVs and Crossovers Through 2017 Q3: Toyota RAV4 Primed to Break Honda CR-V Streak
For five consecutive years between 2012 and 2016, the Honda CR-V has been America’s most popular utility vehicle.
In fact, the CR-V has topped America’s SUV/crossover sales charts in nine of the last 10 years, a streak of dominance that began in 2007.
It appears increasingly likely in 2017, however, that the Honda CR-V’s streak will be broken by the Toyota RAV4. Thanks to 20-percent year-over-year growth through the first three-quarters of 2017, the RAV4 leads the CR-V by more than 31,000 sales and the Nissan Rogue/Rogue Sport by more than 15,000 sales with scant time remaining for the RAV4’s rivals to make up the gap.
The difference maker? Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid.
September 2017 sales at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles decreased on a year-over-year basis for a 14th consecutive month, extending a stretch of declines that began in August of last year.
For much of that time span, the U.S. automobile industry was reporting declining sales, as well. And for much of that time span, even as total U.S. auto sales kept on sliding, SUV/crossover sales were rising. For much of that time span, Jeep sales were falling.
Technically, officially, Jeep sales kept on falling in September 2017, the U.S. auto industry’s first month of improved sales this year.
But if you’d just ignore the Jeep Patriot for a moment, we can look at a clearer picture.
Porsche revealed a new, third-generation Cayenne on a new platform late last month, but the U.S. arrival of the third version of Porsche’s original SUV won’t take place until the second half of 2018.
While the new Cayenne will be sold in some markets as a MY2018 vehicle, the 2018 Cayenne on this side of the Atlantic is the outgoing Cayenne. Yes, that Cayenne, the Cayenne that’s suffering from a sharp sales decline.
In August 2017, the Cayenne’s gradual and not entirely unpredictable old-age decline was matched to a sudden downward shift from its smaller sibling, as well. Macan sales plunged 29 percent last month. Cayenne volume was down 28 percent. Jointly, the duo lost 1,003 sales, year-over-year.
You know what that means. The [s]overwhelming majority[/s], [s]the lion’s share[/s], [s]most[/s], [s]nearly half[/s], more than a third of the vehicles sold in Porsche’s U.S. showrooms in August 2017 were sports cars. Yes, Porsche still builds sports cars, rather decent ones, in fact. And in August, Porsche’s sports car sales were very healthy indeed.
Why Did General Motors Report Such a Significant August 2017 Sales Gain as the Industry Slowdown Continued?
New crossovers in the biggest crossover segments.
General Motors reported a 7-percent year-over-year U.S. sales improvement in August 2017 — in stark contrast to GM’s declines in four preceding months — as the U.S. auto industry reported its eighth consecutive sales decline.
Don’t thank GM’s cars, sales of which tumbled by more than a tenth. Pickup-truck sales edged up only slightly, rising less than 3 percent compared with August 2016. But crossovers — especially newly launched crossovers, especially newly launched crossovers in America’s largest utility vehicle segments — produced massive U.S. sales improvements for GM in August 2017.
How massive? Apart from the Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Terrain, and GMC Acadia, General Motors’ U.S. sales were down 2 percent last month.
Not to sound overly patriotic or offend my Canadian coworkers, but United States is responsible for giving the world so much greatness that it’s difficult not to get a little misty eyed when I stop to think about it.
America’s long history of inventiveness has blessed the globe with modern marvels like sunglasses, chewing gum, kitty litter, the atomic bomb and, of course, sport utility vehicles. While the atomic bomb doesn’t get much broad praise these days, the rest of the aforementioned items are exceptionally popular outside the nation’s borders — especially SUVs and their bastard offspring, the crossover.
In fact, they’ve been such a runaway success that SUVs accounted for over 25 percent of all European passenger vehicle sales in 2016. That’s up from 21 percent in 2015 and there’s no sign of it stopping anytime soon. Sport utility vehicles are expected to surpass a third of the region’s new vehicle market by 2020. Assumedly, America’s own SUV sales will be hovering around 100 percent by then — maybe more. But let’s not discount how crossover-crazy the rest of the globe has become or forget to remind ourselves that most of the world’s best-selling SUVs aren’t exactly “Made in America.”
Eight Consecutive Months of Volkswagen Sales Improvement Ends in July 2017 - Crossover Volume Still Very Low
After steady declines even prior to the diesel emissions scandal of nearly two years ago, Volkswagen of America took another serious hit in 2016 — the best year on record for the auto industry. Compared with 2012, Volkswagen volume sank by 85,000 sales last year.
But by the end of 2016, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales volume was beginning to rise again. True, that rise was in comparison with a true low — Volkswagen sales in the final one-sixth of 2016 were up 22 percent year-over-year but were 17-percent lower than in the same period of 2012 — but Volkswagen was bouncing back.
The bounce back continued through the first half of 2017, with Volkswagen sales through June up 8 percent despite the market’s 2-percent downturn.
Perhaps July was just a blip on the radar. But Volkswagen’s eight-month streak of improvement screeched to a halt last month as the U.S. auto industry reported its most significant losses of the year, and as Volkswagen’s new SUV lineup continues to dip its toes in American waters.
One Consequence of America's Increasing Fondness for Crossovers? Automakers Laughing All the Way to the Bank
Perhaps we oversimplify it. Perhaps we don’t.
Take one Honda Fit or Chevrolet Sonic or Mazda 2, alter the exterior body panels, clad the wheel arches or bumpers in a modest amount of black plastic, periodically route power to the rear wheels without any fancy AWD systems, elevate the roofline, and increase ride height just a bit. Use a typical small car engine, the same transmissions, and many of the same interior bits.
The result: HR-V, Trax, CX-3. Call it a crossover. Dare even to call it an SUV.
And then, according to Kelley Blue Book, charge customers $7,700 more for the privilege.
If the rate of growth FCA’s Jeep brand experienced in the United States in 2016 could be carried forward into 2017, Jeep would sell 1,000,000 SUVs/crossovers this year.
Count the zeros. 1 million.
For a company that sold fewer than 300,000 vehicles per year coming out of the recession, that’s an absurd figure.
Jeep earned 5.4 percent of the overall auto market in the first half of 2016, yet through the first half of 2017, Jeep’s market share has taken a dive to 4.8 percent. In a market gone mad for utility vehicles — where sales of SUVs/crossovers are up 6 percent, year-over-year, despite the market’s downturn — no-car Jeep is losing sales faster than every auto brand aside from Chrysler and Smart.
Worrying? According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, Jeep is, “exactly where I thought we would be in the U.S.”
An inconsequential 1,630 copies of the Volkswagen Touareg were sold in the United States during the first half of 2017.
It’s therefore unlikely you’ll notice the Volkswagen luxury SUV’s absence now that Volkswagen has decided to eliminate the Touareg from its 2018 U.S. lineup.
Initially reported by Motor Trend yesterday, Volkswagen’s decision to discontinue the Touareg was confirmed to TTAC by Volkswagen of America spokesperson Jessica Anderson today. “Our focus for the 2018 model year is the all-new Atlas and redesigned Tiguan.”
So is the Touareg done, or just done for now? Volkswagen of America won’t say.
The Third-generation BMW X3 Absolutely Must Be the Best-Selling Small Luxury Crossover in 2018, BMW CEO Says
“We created that segment,” BMW CEO says of the sector in which the BMW X3 arrived before Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo.
“The No.1 approach and target I clearly have is, there shouldn’t be anyone besides us who is No.1,” Krueger told Automotive News Europe.
In the U.S., where Krueger’s goals (expectations? demands?) for the South Carolina-built BMW X3 are lofty, the X3 ranked a distant fifth in the category in 2016.
But Krueger ain’t kiddin’ around.
Nissan reported 34,349 U.S. sales of the Rogue in June 2017, a 17-percent year-over-year increase that drove the Rogue to its third monthly victory in America’s SUV/crossover sales race this year.
But June was the first time since March in which the Rogue — sales of which have now increased in eight consecutive months — topped the utility vehicle segment.
What propelled the Nissan back into the top spot after a two-month hiatus?
Another Rogue. Mysteriously missing from Nissan’s June sales report, despite six weeks of sales activity, was the Nissan Rogue Sport, known in other markets as the Nissan Qashqai.
Disappointingly, for the purposes of U.S. sales reports, Nissan is combining sales of the Rogue and new Rogue Sport. Thus, we’re left to wonder whether the Rogue, on its own, was America’s best-selling SUV/crossover in June or if the Rogue requires an asterisk alongside its position in the victor’s column.
Popular? Most definitely. In fact, the Lexus NX is twice as popular as Lexus anticipated.
The Lexus NX, a crossover you must never confuse with the Nissan NX, is marketed in the United States both in NX200t and NX300h variants. At the New York International Auto Show three years ago, Lexus revealed the brand hoped to sell around 26,000 NXs per year; roughly 2,200 per month. At that point, in the lead-up to the NX’s 2014 Q4 launch, there were two schools of thought. One, the NX was so ghastly to behold Lexus surely wouldn’t sell 2,200 per month. Or, because Lexus is such a luxury crossover powerhouse, even the NX — with a face even a mother couldn’t love — will be more popular than Lexus anticipated.
Dealers believed Lexus’ forecast was on the low side.
But could anyone have expected the Lexus NX would be more than twice as popular as originally forecasted; that the Lexus NX would be America’s fifth-best-selling luxury utility vehicle; that the NX would account for one-in-five Lexus sales in America?
In January 2017, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.
In calendar year 2016, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.
But in December 2016 and the preceding three months, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Nissan Rogue, sales of which rose to record November levels in 2016, record January levels last month, and all-time record levels of 40,477 units in December 2016.
Not the most powerful, refined, reliable, or dynamically competent, the Rogue is nevertheless Nissan’s most popular vehicle in America and a hugely consequential member of the SUV sector.
Yet the sheriff in town is wearing a new uniform, the Rogue is about to be joined by a new sibling, and 2017 is the second-generation Rogue’s fourth model year. Can Nissan continue to grow U.S. Rogue sales by more than 17 percent per month, and can Nissan make the Rogue America’s top-selling utility vehicle on a consistent basis?
On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company unveiled the all-new, fourth-generation 2018 Ford Expedition outside the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
But does the Expedition matter?
With the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe plus GMC’s Yukon and Yukon XL — setting aside the degree to which the Cadillac Escalade crushes the Lincoln Navigator — General Motors owns 75 percent of America’s full-size, body-on-frame, truck-based SUV market.
Seventy-five per cent.
Is it still a cult following if only six, undeniably mainstream utility vehicles are more popular?
Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford…
Subaru? While the U.S. auto industry dropped 6 percent in October 2016, losing nearly 90,000 sales compared with October 2015, the Subaru Outback soared to new heights.
If the Subaru Outback is the leader of a cult, as Dan Neil wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this fall, the cult is now big enough that we ought to call it a mainstream religion.
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