Pick-ups, SUVS and compact crossovers rule the roost in USA

The motoring industry is subject to trends just as much as any other industry which relies on people’s personal desires. As the world’s biggest car market, the USA is a good indicator of how trends are likely to go and the message from that part of the world is loud and clear – pick-ups or bakkies, SUVs and compact crossovers are what people want.

According to a recent New York Times article, the US auto industry is in a very healthy state, thanks to consumer demand driven partly by an improved jobs market, combined with low petrol prices (at around $2 a gallon) and declining interest rates. A new sales record was set in 2015 - 17,5 million cars sold, the highest number since 2000 – and several noteworthy shifts in buying trends occurred.

The first is that the big three US auto manufacturers – GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler – are losing a considerable amount of market share to the big three Asian manufacturers, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The Koreans – Hyundai and Kia – are also making inroads into the market, as are smaller players like Subaru and BMW.

Land Rover is another company that has benefited hugely from the demand for luxury SUVs in the USA, which shows no signs of abating amid record low petrol prices. According to a report on Bloomberg News, Land Rover sold 70,582 vehicles in the USA last year, a 37% increase over 2014’s tally.

The industry still relies on pick-up trucks to bring in the customers – Ford’s new F150 pick-up featuring aluminium construction still plays a significant role in keeping that company’s bottom line healthy.

Despite all the clamouring for big vehicles, fuel efficiency is still a critical goal for manufacturers. The US government has declared that all manufacturers will have to achieve superior fuel efficiency figures by the year 2025 – an average of 54,5 miles per gallon.

This has led to a number of new hybrid and electric models as manufacturers chase the desired grail of fuel economy without having to compromise on space and performance.

The second major shift has been the changing tastes of US consumers when it comes to their favourite vehicle. Mid-size sedans were once the most dominant category but that is no longer the case as the compact crossover grows in popularity.

It seems people just can’t get enough of vehicles that combine a higher ride height and increased cargo space with the utility of a SUV.

A research firm called Experian Automotive estimates that crossovers now make up around 24% of the entire automotive market – doubling in popularity within ten years.

Compact crossovers like the Honda HR-V and the newly launched Toyota Rav4 particular have become top sellers in the SUV category.


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