Combined sales of compact and subcompact SUVs have nearly doubled since 2008, from 10 percent to 18 percent of the U.S. market, according to AutoTrader.com. Analysts predict the market will grow for at least the next few years, as young, affluent buyers are drawn to likes of the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox and the even smaller Buick Encore.
“Sales of crossovers of all sorts have been growing significantly in recent years, but the growth in sales of smaller crossovers and SUVs has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com, said in a statement. “It’s easy to see why, with the segment being so versatile to meet the needs of a wide variety of car buyers. They can carry people, serve as a substitute truck or haul bigger cargo while still driving like a car.”
IHS Automotive predicts the compact SUV segment — now at 2 million vehicles — will grow to 2.2 million in the U.S. by 2017. The compact segment includes the Escape, Equinox, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
The forecaster believes the subcompact SUV category — including smaller offerings such as the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore and the soon-to-be introduced Jeep Renegade — will hit 500,000 in sales by 2019. In 2005, the subcompact SUV market was nonexistent.
Compact and subcompact SUVs are considered especially good for newlyweds or 20-somethings starting their careers. That’s because they’re a bit more spacious than compact cars, but not as bulky as full-size SUVs, said Eric Lyman, an analyst with California-based industry forecaster ALG.com.
“(Small SUVs) are on fire this year,” Lyman said. “This is a key vehicle in a transition phase of life. If you lose somebody at this critical stage, you potentially lose them for quite a bit of time.”
• Other analysts say the smaller SUVs are so popular because they appeal to buyers of all ages.
• The CR-V, Escape, Equinox and RAV4 are the four major compact SUV players
• Nissan recently redesigned the Rogue, and its sales are up 25 percent year-to-date
• The Subaru Forester and Buick Encore have had strong sales numbers, too.
• In the subcompact category, the Juke and Encore dominate.
• The Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade subcompacts will provide competition.
• Lincoln recently unwrapped its MKC, Lexus will introduce the NX.
• Audi will come out with a new version of the Q5.
• Mercedes will introduce the GLA this fall.
“If you’re going to be a legit contender in the U.S. market, you’ve got to have a car in this segment,” Lyman said. “It’s extremely popular, it’s extremely competitive. That’s pushed a lot of redesigns so automakers can stay competitive.”