Anyone who has been stuck in traffic for at least a few minutes in the past decade is likely to have noticed that cars are bigger now. SUV sales have been on the rise for years as sedan sales plummet in the U.S. Every year, automakers purge cars from their lineups as they make room for larger crossovers and SUVs. Even the smaller vehicle models that have remained are growing in size in order to compete. But what is behind this shift in the automotive market?
Bigger Vehicles Are More Practical and Versatile
An obvious advantage that larger vehicles have over the compact vehicles that once dominated the market is the spacious interiors that they provide. Since so many drivers are looking for a vehicle capable of moving their family around in comfort and style, the extra legroom and first-class amenities of a sport utility vehicle make them the obvious choice for many drivers.
More room opens up more possibilities, allowing these vehicles to achieve versatility that others simply cannot compare to. Whether you’re just picking up groceries or planning the next big family getaway, the extra cargo and passenger space makes your life a whole lot easier. Convenient amenities like rear-seat entertainment systems or power liftgates for easy loading and unloading help to elevate the experience even further.
Riding High Provides More Visibility and Safety
The higher stance and driving height of sport utility vehicles help drivers to feel safer on the road. A raised vantage point makes it easier to identify potential threats in time to react accordingly. Since every driver’s priority is getting themselves and their passengers safely to the next destination, this is an important feature.
In addition, modern vehicles in this class come with all of the latest safety and driver assistance technology to make your ride even safer. Emergency braking systems and advanced airbags help to protect your most precious cargo in the event of an accident. Meanwhile, camera suites and sensor systems that monitor the blind spots you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see help to prevent dangerous situations from ever arising in the first place. Overall, big SUVs are a lot safer for drivers and passengers alike.
More Safety for Me, Not Necessarily for Thee
While a big SUV or even a truck provides more visibility in traffic and protection in the event of a crash, they also pose a bigger danger to pedestrians. The data is clear: as SUV sales have grown, pedestrian deaths have risen as well. Because of their size, SUVs and trucks are harder to stop and obviously carry more weight when they hit something. When that something is an unprotected human, they cause more severe injuries than a car would.
They also have bigger blind spots, which increases the likelihood of hitting someone while turning. According to one IIHS study, “at intersections, the odds that a crash [that] killed a crossing pedestrian involved a left turn by the vehicle versus no turn were about twice as high for SUVs, nearly 3 times as high for vans and minivans and nearly 4 times as high for pickups as they were for cars.” So, if you’re going to get a big SUV, blind-spot monitoring and cameras are worth investing in for the safety of those around you.
Fuel Economy Regulations Are Helping Make Vehicles Bigger
While it seems counterintuitive, government regulations may also be playing a role in the rise of SUVs and other big vehicles. Back in the 1970s, the federal government created the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to incentivize auto manufacturers to build more efficient vehicles. However, there are different mileage standards for different models based on the “type” of vehicle it is.
“Passenger vehicles” have the strictest standards while “light trucks” have much easier targets to meet. And according to the government, pretty much any vehicle bigger than a sedan can qualify as a “light truck”. So, it became easier for automakers to simply make more light trucks as fuel economy standards become more stringent.
SUVs Are More Profitable Than Cars
Of course, automakers wouldn’t be cranking out more SUVs and crossovers if it wasn’t profitable to do so, and it is very profitable to do so. Rising demand for bigger vehicles means that dealers can charge higher prices for what are essentially bigger, lifted versions of the more economical cars in the lineup. All the underlying technology is the same. And since most “SUVs” today are really just crossovers, they’re even built on the exact same platforms as a traditional sedan.
Most drivers won’t venture farther offroad than the occasional unpaved parking lot, so there’s no need for most modern SUVs to have all that much utility. The additional ground clearance and maybe the addition of all-wheel drive are typically enough to quell any concerns about capability. It doesn’t cost the manufacturer much, but they still get to charge a premium for it.
So Many Choices
So, the rise in demand for bigger, more capable, and safer vehicles paired with overcomplicated government regulations has led to a boom in crossovers and SUVs that’s not going anywhere soon. The great thing about it is there are a LOT of options on the table if that’s what you’re looking for.
From stylish subcompact SUVs like the Kia Seltos, to rugged off-roaders like the new Ford Bronco, to gargantuan luxury people movers like the Cadillac Escalade – you can bet there’s an SUV on the market that will meet your needs. Even buyers concerned about fuel mileage can get in on the action as more electric and electrified models begin to hit the lots.
There’s no doubt about it: SUVs have conquered the U.S. market. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Find the SUV of your dreams today!