The sport utility takeover: looking to the future with SUV trends

Sport utility vehicles outsold sedans two to one in 2019, just four years after surpassing them for the first time. This shift shows little sign of stopping. Let's explore together the key trends of this segment

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Long gone are the days of sedan dominance in the American automotive market. While traditionally popular cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic were some of the top dogs for decades, a new sector has taken 47.4% of all automotive sales, relegating sedans to only 22.1% of the market. What is this burgeoning sector? SUVs. Sports Utility Vehicles have steadily climbed in popularity for decades, overtaking sedans in 2015 and predicted to continue its rise in the following years.

There are a variety of factors that have contributed to this trend toward sports utility popularity, so let's explore those key trends that continue to sell.

Even the most classic cars need an occasional makeover, and that's especially true with some of the first SUV models to hit the market. Recently, Ford unveiled a new Bronco midsize SUV and its compact counterpart, the Bronco Sport, which is fitted with Pirelli All Terrain tires. After more than 20 years off the production line, Ford unveiled the new look to eagerly waiting fans and the reveal showed a massive hunger for nostalgic SUV concepts. Even looking at longstanding models like the Jeep Wrangler, we can see that it is a continually reinvented version of its predecessor and a pioneer vehicle for the future SUV trend - the iconic Wyllis MB. Contrary to popular belief, the grandparent of all SUVs was not “Willy's” Jeep. John Wyllis was the founder of the company that eventually built more than 350,000 World War II-era MBs.

The sport utility takeover: looking to the future with SUV trends 01
The sport utility takeover: looking to the future with SUV trends 01

Today's SUVs are typically associated with big families, soccer practice and their extensive storage space; but there are plenty of enticing specializations in the market for offroading and raw power. With SUV tires made specifically for off-roading (like Pirelli's Scorpion All Terrain line) and a heightened focus on off-roading capabilities for many new SUV models, we could see a mass adoption by the off-road enthusiast crowd, which have been previously unenthused. Muscle car culture is also making its entrance with powerful vehicles like the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, which packs a mean 710 horsepower on P Zero and Scorpion tires.

Luxury is another category on the rise within the broader Sports Utility sector, with high-end brands like Lamborghini and Maserati manufacturing their own SUVs in recent years, and other more attainable (but still impressive) models like the BMW X5, which is fitted with US-produced Pirelli tires. Recently, automakers have begun capitalizing on interest from affluent consumers looking to spend top dollar on a more comfortable vehicle.

Of course, there has been legitimate concern over the environmental impact of these vehicles. SUVs, being larger and less fuel-efficient, some burn more gas and emit more CO2 into the atmosphere than the more compact and lightweight sedan. However, with much more stringent emission standards in place, manufacturers have worked to bring their SUVs almost to the same level as sedans, effectively nullifying the environmental contrast and significantly upgrading mileage across the board.

The sport utility takeover: looking to the future with SUV trends 02
The sport utility takeover: looking to the future with SUV trends 02

Beyond beating emissions standards, several manufacturers have taken the next step and adopted EV technology to produce hybrid or fully electric SUVs. The electric vehicle market is predicted to expand significantly to 7.6% market share by 2026, according to expert analysts, and many brands are already ahead of the curve. Look no further than projects like Cadillac's new electric Lyriq, and you'll see many automakers committing to sustainability above and beyond the industry standards. With such a strong and swift push for efficiency and electrification, could we see more carmakers riding the wave in 2021 and beyond?

As SUVs continue to lead the pack in automotive sales, keep an eye out for further trendsetting announcements. Such an increase in popularity is surely leading to a rising demand for innovation, and we're excited to see the trends in the SUV market a year from today.