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SUVs climb to 40% of US new vehicle sales

15 October 2015 Tom Libby

The rise of SUVs and crossovers has been well documented in the automotive press and is common knowledge across the industry. What is not as well known is the exceptional rate at which this category has grown and the huge market share it now has. IHS Automotive new vehicle registration data through the first seven months of this year indicate that the SUV/CUV body style is on track to capture 40% of all new vehicle retail deliveries in the US in 2015. This would be about six points above the share for sedans, the runner-up body style. Six years ago the positions of these two categories were reversed, with sedans leading the industry with 37.7% and SUV/CUVs trailing at 31.1%. To look at the category's growth from another perspective, its 8.5 percentage point share gain since 2009 is almost as large as the current total US market share for Nissan North America Inc.

*July CYTD
Registration Type: Personal
Source: IHS Automotive

On a monthly basis the results are equally impressive. In both June and July of this year SUV/CUV retail share equaled or exceeded 40%, the first time any body style has reached this threshold in any month since August 2009.

It is virtually certain that the SUV/CUV category is benefitting from current low gas prices; there is a related theory that as gas prices rise, which they inevitably will, SUVs will lose their luster and the market will shift back towards sedans. Yet SUV/CUVs have become so common, and their benefits compelling and ongoing (high seating position, high ground clearance, towing capacity, off-road capability, among others), that while the segment's share may retreat somewhat, it should, at a minimum, remain a formidable presence in the market. And continued fragmentation of the SUV/CUV category, including the emergence of sub-compact entries, will only continue its momentum. It will be worth watching to see if, in the long term, the SUV/CUV body style will become and remain the dominant sheet metal configuration in the US market, replacing the sedan which had been the industry mainstay since its inception at the start of the twentieth century.

Tom Libby is manager, loyalty practice and industry analysis, IHS Automotive

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