Impact of the CUV may not be ‘sudden,’ but it’s still significant


They are the “sudden impact” at least 28 years in the making.

At the turn of the millennium in 2000, fewer CUVs were sold than minivans or SUVs, according to data from IHS Automotive, and the car still was the most popular vehicle on four wheels – although models like the AMC Eagle already had been around for more than a decade by then.

But the CUV’s time was coming.

The RAV4 and other CUVs have come a long way over two decades.

The RAV4 and other CUVs have come a long way over two decades.

WardsAuto data showed CUVs had grown from 24.5 percent of light-vehicle sales by 2010 and to nearly 34 percent so far this year, while cars have declined from nearly half to under 37 percent.

“This was the harshest move in consumer preference the industry has ever seen,” Bob Carter, executive vice president-sales, Toyota Motor North America, told WardsAuto at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, MI.

Even if it’s not “sudden,” occurring over the span of two decades, it’s still a tectonic shift since the introduction of vehicles like the RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.

CUV sales for July (452,412) beat all other categories, including pickup trucks, and approached total cars sales (525,020) – small, midsize, large and luxury combined. And it’s growing faster (7.5 percent year to date) over the same period last year than any other category.

The minivan? Miniscule by comparison. And true SUVs? About one-third the sales YTD.

“This year, automakers will offer nearly 80 different CUVs,” WardsAuto reported, with the “vast majority of [vehicle] introductions” coming in the Crossover category.

Some industry watchers think all of this means the writing is on the wall for the midsize sedan.

Headlines for the last several years have wondered “Is the slow death of the sedan happening right before our eyes?” ( and “Could the family sedan be driven to extinction?” (Forbes) or even proclaimed “The sedan is dead” (Jalopnik) and “The family sedan is dead” (Business Insider).

But predicting the death of the category probably is a bit much.

Even The Truth about Cars “Midsize Sedan Deathwatch” series allows that “the midsize sedan as we know it … isn’t going anywhere any time soon.”

While the midsize sedan category is down 14.5 percent YTD compared to last year, sales still come in second only to crossovers at about 1.65 million. Even if sales declined at the same rate in coming years, it still would take more than a decade for the sedan category to shrink to the size of current luxury sales.

And by that time, we’ll all be car-sharing anyway, right?

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