Developments in the global SUV market

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As sport utility vehicles (SUVs) keep on advancing with design and technological enhancements, it continues to be much favored by driving consumers both globally and locally.

Automotive business intelligence supplier JATO Dynamics reported the growing popularity of SUVs on a global scale. The intelligence firm noted that SUVs was the top segment in 2018, with 29.77 million units sold or 36.4% of the total market. This is an increase of 2.5% and, more importantly, the highest recorded market share to date.

This growth in the market, JATO noted, is due to the participation of car makers in the segment as well as the contribution of the largest markets such as China. “As more car makers joined the segment, sales were boosted by new models and were further helped by a growing consumer awareness of these vehicles,” wrote JATO on its Web site. “But stalling sales in China — one of the main drivers of growth over the last 10 years — meant that the rapid growth began to change. However, most of the car makers that were missing from the segment finally joined which helped to stabilize sales.”

China, as the largest SUV market, counted for almost 35% of SUV global sales, although it dropped by 2.9% to 10.35 million units.

“The lack of incentives during the last few years is having a negative impact on the industry and puts more pressure on the market. This coincides with a decline in consumer spending capabilities,” explained JATO on the reasons for the decrease. “Since 2014, the citizen financial leverage ratio (debt/savings) has increased from 46% to 63%, meaning that consumers simply have less money to spend.”

The United States ranked as the second top market, with a 10% increase in their SUV sales to 7.75 million units. Europe followed with an 18% growth in sales, tallying 5.4 million units.

Furthermore, JATO found compact SUVs as the most popular subsegment of SUVs, with 12.4 million units. It got 41% of total sales, an increase of 7%. Midsized SUVs followed with 7.26 million units (up by 3%); while small SUV ranks third with 6.58 million units (up by 13%). Big SUVs, meanwhile, tallied 3.68 million units, with 2% increase.

Here in the Philippines, considerable growth in SUV leads and sales still give good news to the segment. In the latest quarterly report by online automotive marketplace AutoDeal, leads in midsize SUVs gradually increased in the past four quarters. Based on the inquiries received by AutoDeal for major vehicle categories, midsize SUVs reached almost 15% of total leads in the 2nd quarter of 2019, fourth among the car categories listed.

AutoDeal also recorded slight increases from previous periods in the proportion of its tracked generated sales of midsize SUVs and subcompact crossovers for the 2nd quarter of 2019. The earlier reached almost 20%, while the latter was close to 10% of the shares.

Not only have SUVs been counted for its sales growth. This segment was also observed for improvements in terms of safety and fuel economy.

SUVs are now seen to be safer on the road than before by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Its recent study concluded that SUVs are not a major threat to occupants of smaller vehicles after it tracked a decreasing rate of car driver deaths in crashes with SUVs relative to the death rate in crashes with other cars in the past years.

“In 2013-16, the rate that car drivers were killed in crashes with 1-4-year-old SUVs was just 28% higher than the rate that car drivers were killed in crashes with other cars, also between 1 and 4 years old. That compares with 132% in 1989-92 and 59% in 2009-12,” IIHS explained.

IIHS attributed this observed compatibility of SUVs with cars and minivans to “newer SUV designs that lowered the vehicles’ front ends to better align with cars’ energy-absorbing structures.”

Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice-president for vehicle research, noted that reducing the weight of a vehicle as heavy as an SUV has allowed for more sophisticated designs “that do a better job of managing forces in a crash”, aside from electronic stability control and other crash avoidance features.

“This suggests that reducing the weight of the heaviest vehicles for better fuel economy — for example, by switching from steel to aluminum — can improve safety for other road users without sacrificing occupant protection,” Mr. Nolan was quoted as saying.

In addition, the United State Environmental Protection Agency recently observed that as SUVs continue to gain market share, they nonetheless achieve low carbon dioxide emissions and high fuel economy.

“Truck SUVs (larger or 4WD SUVs) improved fuel economy by 0.1 mpg (to 22.4 mpg) and COemissions by 3 g/mile in model year 2017, while car SUVs (generally smaller 2WD SUVs) essentially remained flat with no change in fuel economy (26.2 mpg) and a slight increase in CO2 emissions of less than 1 g/mi,” EPA reported. — Adrian Paul B. Conoza