Home » Data Shows That SUVs Are Devouring All Other Types Of Car On The Market

Data Shows That SUVs Are Devouring All Other Types Of Car On The Market

2023 Wagoneer L Series Iii suvs

Even in a year of production challenges, the Great Heightening of America’s roadscape continued. Crossovers and SUVs are coming for us all, and that now includes pickup trucks. Analysts at research firm S&P Global Mobility have found that, despite production troubles easing somewhat in the second half of 2022, America’s iconic half-ton pickup trucks are losing market share to SUVs and crossovers, just like cars have.

Ram 1500 2023
Photo credit: Ram

In the third quarter of last year, half-ton pickup truck market share slipped to 7.8%, sliding further to 7.5% in October, per S&P’s report titled “Pickup owners moving to SUVs (like everyone else).” That’s the lowest market share since the second quarter of 2012 by a country mile, and the analysts claim that SUVs are a direct cause. Body-style loyalty is on the decline, with SUVs seducing current pickup truck owners with highly advanced luxury conveniences like “enclosed cargo areas.” S&P Global Mobility reports that the share of former Ram 1500 owners who’ve migrated to SUVs jumped 5.8 percentage points year-over-year to 41.6%.

Mind you, S&P Global Mobility claims that the heavy duty pickup truck segment appears to be staying flat, but that just results in an even more lop-sided car market compared to a scenario where heavy duty pickup sales increase. In a media release, the firm states that “Through the first 10 months of 2022, utility registrations accounted for 68% of retail luxury registrations and 61% of retail registrations industry-wide.” Let that sink in for a second.

My23 Corolla Hybrid 0003
Photo credit: Toyota

Indeed, you probably already know that sedans and wagons have lost market share at a rapid rate, although just how rapid requires reiteration. The EPA claims that sedans and wagons held 26% market share in 2021 but 50% market share in 2013. While part of this is likely due to reduced choice in the passenger car arena, it also indicates that America’s still not done being crossover-mad.

It’s not hard to see why crossovers and SUVs are so popular. New cars are expensive, so young people aren’t buying a ton of them. Utility vehicles offer a convenient form factor for families toting around strollers and diaper bags, and utility vehicles’ high hip points are often a hit with older generations for ease of entry and egress. In a way, these crossovers and SUVs are a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who can afford more stuff are more likely to buy new vehicles, and they want vehicles that can carry all the extra stuff they can afford. A new Toyota Camry may be a perfectly decent sedan, but good luck using it to move an armchair.

Img 3256 suvs

Plus, the wide range of sizes from Hyundai Kona small to Jeep Wagoneer L massive means there’s something for everyone in the utility vehicle space. Well, everyone who doesn’t care too much about a low H-point, SCCA autocross eligibility, or road feel. Maybe it’s best to just recognize that pickup truck owners, like sedan evangelists and coupe-driving cone warriors, are perhaps destined to be a minority on the roads. The utility vehicle, whether crossover or sport, will eventually consume us all if nothing dramatically changes.

[Ed Note: I think EVs are going to bring sedans back, which is a view shared by other people here, for aero reasons. I also think that CUVs, in particular, are just going to become cars. – MH]

Of course, the long-term future of the car market is a bit hazy as the electric transition largely negates the CAFE footprint rule that penalizes small cars. In addition, higher interest rates could drive consumers toward vehicles that are fairly cheap to buy and run. Electric trucks also hold huge appeal, so it’s entirely possible that sedans and half-ton trucks will both claw back market share from utility vehicles. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

(Lead photo credit: Ram)


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47 Responses

  1. And, most that buy an SUV, CUV, etc. would be much better served with a van of the mini variety……There, I said it.
    The number of times folks pile into our Odyssey and comment how much more usable room it has than their SUV, how much easier the 3rd row is to access and how much more space there is back there, how much better it rides and drives, how much better fuel economy it gets……I could go on……but then they say they would never buy one because the SUV is safer, better in bad weather…..sigh…..the van is great in snow and ice unless it is deep enough to high center……and the Honda is superb in crash tests, but the commercials have convinced everyone they “NEED” an SUV and here we are.

    So, yes, I own a truck……3500 Diesel Ram…….and it very rarely moves without a load in the bed or a large trailer attached. I own a Vette……and it is super fun. I own a Mazda 3 that is a great handling, fun to drive econobox with good crash ratings that my kiddos drive. And a van for all of us to go places in with plenty of room for luggage and such…..each vehicle with a purpose…….and maybe one with the soul purpose of fun……..this is Autopian after all.

  2. I saw a new etron last week and thought it was some new wagon model. Cuvs are getting so low they’re turning into wagons again. I have zero issue with this.

    “People who can afford more stuff are more likely to buy new vehicles, and they want vehicles that can carry all the extra stuff they can afford”

    I do not think rich people hoarding stuff has anything at all to do with cuvs. If this had anything to do with the truth they would all be driving panel vans.

    1. And, let’s be honest, CUVs actually don’t have that much more room than, say, a sedan in the same price bracket.

      I’m not saying they’re impractical, but I can’t fit in the back of some mainstream models, and knee room is usually at a premium all around.

      1. I dunno, I’m a wagon guy so I like the form factor. That being said, my compact wagon has a more usable trunk space than my midsize SUV. Probably not more volume but significantly longer. And imo a CUV is just taking a car and an SUV and combining all of the least useful features.

      2. What’s really frustrating to me with CUVs is the fact that we generally measure cargo volume and not cargo area footprint. And that volume is generally only measured to the roof, rather than also including the more practical measure up to the rear window or to a cargo cover. While that extra space comes in handy and is relevant, it makes it really hard for buyers to comparison shop against sedans, which often have more trunk floor than CUVs, which is more useful for a grocery-getter or many other situations. And that lack of solid comparison sort of feels intentional sometimes.

        1. I don’t like the idea of measuring cargo area to the window/cover, because it creates yet another incentive for manufacturers to build higher beltlines and smaller DLOs. Most are already far too underglazed.

          1. Fair. I chose it because it is more usable, but didn’t consider the implications that way. But at least cargo volume and cargo footprint would be nice.

        1. Eh, they do fit bulk items like bikes. I can’t get away with a sedan. Ok, I could if it was something really really cool (like an SS, RS4, M car…) and worth dealing with the low cargo area. If only there were such thing as a sedan with a roof that extends further back and makes the cargo area taller.

  3. So the article says that half-ton pickup truck market share is down and attributes it to CUV/SUV. Based on my anecdotal evidence in Tennessee, the super-duty/heavy-duty trucks are consuming their less manly brethren.

    1. That’s sort of true, insofar as the super duty pickups are staying steady with their market share. Regular pickups dropping in market share would indicate that a higher percentage of pickup sales are heavy duty pickups. But the overall market share would suggest that people who would have been purchasing regular duty pickups are going to SUVs.

      That said, this could be a situation where higher gas prices drove people who don’t need pickup capabilities to SUVs in hopes of saving fuel while people looking for capability went to the super duties. Or the current market meant they couldn’t find the pickup they wanted and settled for SUVs or keeping their current pickup. In either of those situations, heavy duty sales remaining flat could mean that we are going to see them pick up sales as supply constraints and fuel prices ease, with the regular full-size pickup falling behind.

      It’ll be interesting to watch for the next few years, especially as EV pickups likely increase in market share and availability.

    2. Also in Tennessee. Seems like although I’ve been seeing quite a few Mavericks and Santa Cruzes, I’m seeing less Silverado 1500s or F-150s. You’re pretty much hitting the nail on the head, new cars seem to be gravitating to one side or the other, either teeny CUVs/mini trucks or massive 2500/3500 class trucks/extended SUVs (Yukon XL, Grand Wagoneer). Although yeah this is also completely anecdotal evidence lol.

  4. I don’t disagree with the overall trend, but I’m leery of reading too much into sales data for a time when production was still pretty constrained. Perhaps CUV production was prioritized over other vehicles, even trucks.

    I’m also highly highly skeptical of the idea that EVs will bring back cars because of aerodynamics. Slippery, efficient vehicles are available now, and obviously haven’t changed consumers mindset. Ride height, ease of loading kids, and cargo space are simply more important to most consumers than a few percent of efficiency or at-the-limit handling.

    1. While I agree that the current reasons people give for switching from sedans to CUVs aren’t going away, I think the range of EVs will play a much bigger role in buying choices than MPG does for ICE vehicles. A 20% difference in MPG may simply mean an extra 10 min stop on a long road trip. Not a huge concern for many people. But a 20% difference in EV range will be harder to overlook when it means an extra 30 min to 1 hr stop on the same road trip. Range anxiety will have an impact on the types of cars people buy. Not saying that there will be a wholesale migration back to lower-stanced vehicles, but I bet there will be a non-trivial shift.

  5. SUVs, Crossovers, and CUVs, call them what you will. They are getting more car-like all the time and with their sloped back ends and hatches, they do not hold as much as they use to.

  6. I bet a lot of people would buy more sedans and wagons if they were, available? But OEM’s don’t want to make them or when they do make them they price them into a hole or don’t offer the content that they do in their CUV’s for similar money, because everything has to be an option package, because everyone loves bundling right???

    1. yeah, a reinforcement cycle is happening. i’ve an imported sedan now, but the domestic options when i was shopping for sedans: malibu, caddy, or charger/300. thanks, no. (well, i’d not say no to a CT5, except for purchase price,and fuel mileage, and insurance, and a lingering allergy to flash.)

    2. And a lot of this also comes from the fuel efficiency regulations that perversely rewarded manufacturers for building larger or “off-road capable” vehicles that would qualify for relaxed standards. And the tax incentives for businesses to buy larger, heavier vehicles. To pretend that consumers drove SUV/crossover adoption on their own ignores the many factors that put us here.

    3. I don’t think Toyota and Honda intentionally steered customers out of Camrys and Accords into RAV4s and CRVs. Buyers wanted the higher ride heights and increased accessibility and room of the cargo areas.

        1. With more modular architectures in use now, I have to think that gap has narrowed. And certainly now that the powertrain differences are increasingly less distinct between small and medium sedans, and SUVs. The same 1.5T is available in all 3 of those Hondas, the same hybrid powerplant too (just we don’t get the Civic hybrid at this time). Toyota is more distinct, but the same 2.5L hybrid powerplant is scaled across multiple models.

          And while a crossover has typically been more $ than the compact it’s based on, space and equipment aren’t. Passenger space for the CR-V/RAV4/etc. are much more comparable to midsize sedans than the compacts. For ~$30k, you’ve got a midsize sedan, vs. a crossover that seats 4 as comfortably, 5 in a pinch, but you don’t have to hunch over to get in/out or load groceries in the back.

          You can load most of the RAV4/etc. up to the same levels as the midsize offering, usually equipment beyond what a compact offers. Sure they could offer the same equipment on the compact car too, but it’s the classic “at that price, why not just buy the next size up”. Which was helped by higher margins and better incentives on a Camry over a Corolla.

          Actually, if anything – OEMs spent years nudging buyers toward *midsize* cars over a compact, now consumer tastes have changed.

      1. Ride height, sure, but I think that the choice to highlight cargo volume over cargo footprint is a subtle way that they steered people to CUVs. My parents had a Camry when my sister had a RAV4, and they all agreed that the trunk space was so much more usable in the Camry, since most people rarely stack things to the ceiling.

        Combine that with a marketing push highlighting the capabilities and the image of CUVs, reduction in sedan availability, and the availability of some features, and it’s hard to say that the consumer drove the push. Sure, the consumer played a role, as did pop culture, but they rarely change so drastically without a push from marketers.

        This isn’t to say it was all the companies, either. Fuel efficiency regulations made “light trucks” more appealing to the companies, and the availability of cheap gas encouraged buyers to look at capability before efficiency. Automakers took advantage and found they could make a few extra bucks in the process.

        1. It’s a little funny, that’s similar to what people on car sites say about small sedans vs. a hatchback – “always buy the hatch, it’s so much more useful” – but that’s exactly the same thing about the cargo footprint. After being accustomed to sedans for years my GTI is my first hatch, and I barely use the cargo area 90% of the time.

          But if you need to *load* something bulky, a hatch indeed usually still wins. Sedan trunk openings have narrowed, feel like it comes up every time on new model intros – “just make the car a fastback.”

          I think it’s still more the entry/exit than cargo space however. Even after years of minivans, getting someone to drop down (literally) to a car is a tougher sell. My parents had 3 minivans growing up, dad usually had a car, but even he had to give in to a small SUV a couple years ago for his back.

          OEMs tried making sedans larger and sit higher to stem the tide of SUVs over the 2000s into the early 2010s, but people kept buying more SUVs and crossovers anyway. Ford Five Hundred was the most obvious example, but the ’03 Corolla, ’02 Camry, and ’08 Accord also did so.

    4. You’d be incorrect. You can look at Camry, for an example. For the first time ever, it’s competent at more than just being an appliance, and it has literally half the competition it did a decade ago, yet it’s selling at numbers lower than it has in decades. Even lower than 2008/9. Most consumers no longer want sedans. That’s why many OE’s abandoned them, not the other way around. The same thing has happened with station wagons and minivans in the past. Maybe it will eventually happen with CUVs, but I doubt it.

  7. It is interesting that my wife did not want anything but a CUV when her Jetta came off of lease. She likes the higher view in the Rogue, with the updated gadgets (360 degree view), heated seats and steering wheel. I do like the new 3 cylinder with variable compression. I agree that the hip point has a lot to do with people going to SUVs or CUVs, since she doesn’t like getting into my 2017 C300.

  8. A month or two ago I finally saw the new Ioniq in person and was taken aback by its size. I used https://www.carsized.com/en/ to compare it against my Alltrack: it’s bigger in literally every dimension—except internal volume, where the VW does better. It’s all just so strange to me.

    I do get that the skateboard battery pack adds a few inches of height to all of these vehicles, but none of them do anything to compensate. Instead they embrace the size, and everything gets bigger and more unwieldy. Feh.

    1. That site doesn’t appear to account for passenger volume which is quite different between the two. Your Alltrack has about 94 cubic feet of interior volume, pretty typical for compact cars, while the Ioniq 5 has 106 cubic feet – closer to an Accord, which is on the larger end of midsize sedans.

  9. My Mum owned a 2005-ish Impreza RS, my Dad had a similar age Commodore. Those two cars were more than big enough for our family of four, including soccer games, vacations, errands, whatever.. you don’t need a damn Suburban to take your one child to soccer practice or to drive inattentively at 80mph while you text a friend.

    I love my Ram 2500 work truck because it’s not at my expense to use it but I will acknowledge it is the size of a small moon. I wouldn’t actively choose a vehicle that large or cumbersome or expensive to run/maintain.

  10. This is some serious 1st world nonsense.

    I find it amazing how, for decades, most families on planet earth traveled in cars with wheelbases under 10ft and curb weights under 2k. That is, if your lucky enough not to be all piling on to the same motor scooter.

    But having anything less than a full-size SUV for all of lil’ Muffy’s things?! Unthinkable!

    Whenever the grade school in my town let’s out, the pick-up line looks like the Luciano Crime family is holding another summit.

    1. This take always confuses me, as if 50-60 years ago every sedan in America wasn’t 20 ft long, weighed 4500 lb, and got 10 mpg from a 350+ inch V8.

      1973-1993 or so was the outlier, it’s just unfortunate for intelligent discourse that so many commenter’s formative years were encompassed therein.

  11. “highly advanced luxury conveniences like “enclosed cargo areas””

    I guess it’s time to replace my Model T.

    Isn’t luxury having someone else drive?

  12. There’s also the justification factor. Anyone buying pony car is going through their second childhood and should grow the hell up. Buy a CUV and you’re a sensible citizen with high moral values and solid judgment. Pickups are becoming sports vehicles and CUVs are the new station wagons.

  13. You just have to watch the majority of people drive to realize they don’t give a damn about handling, so, on the balance now that larger vehicles have comfy rides and decent fuel economy they’ll choose the option that they’ll use (easy to get into, fits stuff) over the one they won’t (good in the turns).

    So I hate to say I don’t think sedans are coming back any time soon. And really, if really heavy vehicles are the poison pill of electrification, would they really be the same?

  14. It would be interesting to see what types of SUVs people are going to. There’s been a boom of larger, better appointed crossovers in the last 5 years – an Atlas or Telluride may not be as big a jump as say a Tucson or Edge or something.

    I do think EVs will allow for more sedans in the near-term, but overall I think EVs are allowing the conventional car “shapes” and types to evolve since they don’t have the packaging limitations that ICE vehicles do. Sort of a blending of variants together. Ioniq 5 is a good example IMO as it has more room inside than an Accord or Sonata while being almost a foot shorter, taller than a regular car and gets billed as an SUV but isn’t as tall as a crossover.

    Enthusiasts say “people should buy a station wagon!!” for more space, but wagons still share the same seating position and entry/exit that people don’t really want in a sedan. I think people want to sit upright and more “chairlike,” than they want to sit high, and with easy entry/exit.

  15. I’ll push back on the idea that EVs will resurrect sedans. The teardrop shape that’s so good for aero leads to stupidly tiny trunk openings on a sedan to the point where the trunk is almost pointless. That’s been happening for a while, but it’s just getting worse. Look at the Lucid – it’s technically got a huge trunk, but because the opening is so short good luck getting something like a cooler in there.

    Fastbacks/hatchbacks though? You may have a point. They probably will still be called CUVs though since that’s what sells – see Ionic 5 for proof.

    1. The Ioniq 5 is the same shape and size as a RAV4 with a couple inches let out of the suspension. I don’t know where the line between hatchback and crossover lies, but the Ioniq 5 may count as a crossover just by its sheer bulk.

      1. Hyundai USA’s marketing division would dearly like for you to look past the Ioniq 5’s second-coming-of-the-VW-Rabbit styling and think of it as a crossover.

  16. I honestly think this has something to do with the price of trucks ballooning to extreme heights. This might be pushing some traditional “borderline truck buyers” into SUVs because of inflationary pressures. SUVs are expensive, yes, but there is a tax on the truck mystique.

  17. “Ed Note: I think EVs are going to bring sedans back, which is a view shared by other people here, for aero reasons. I also think that CUVs, in particular, are just going to become cars. – MH”

    God I hope you’re right! The amount of times I get blinded by SUVs and trucks on a nightly basis is growing by the day. I’ve actually taken to counting sedans when I’m in traffic. I don’t have hard numbers but I can tell you that lately it feels like I count 1 sedan for every 20 or so trucks and SUVs on the road.

  18. it’s self-fulfilling in that people like my wife, who doesn’t really care about cars, wants our next car to be a CUV because it’s hard to see around all of the trucks/CUVs on the road unless you’re in one yourself

  19. Pickups losing market share is GOOD.

    Ninety percent of people don’t actually want a pickup. I’m not even going down the road of “well they only need something smaller and sensible.” No, ninety percent of people would be significantly happier buying something else. I’ll go further – pickups are bad at the things regular people think they want pickups for.

    Family cars? Total shit. Harder to get kids in and out, often have to pack groceries in with the kids if you didn’t pay extra for the tonneau cover, only two rows anyway so your kids can’t bring their friends, you don’t have any cover when you have to load in the rain. Bad choice.

    Bad weather vehicle? Crap. The sheer number of fishtailing Silverados I see when the snow falls is staggering. Basically, built to haul, so they have very light rear ends, and thus NO grip on the back. “But four wheel dri…” NOPE, you still need grip in the rear, so you better load your garage into the box if you want to drive anywhere in winter.

    Safety? Nope! They might be big bruisers but they don’t have to meet the same safety requirements for that reason. “Well they’re bigger so…” Majority of fatal accidents are single vehicle. And what are the top two vehicles involved in fatal accidents? Going by a quick search, between 2016 and 2020 it was the Silverado and F150, baby – the F150 in a full 2,000 more fatal crashes than the third place Honda Accord. The Ram is in 5th.

    Trucks have a purpose, of course – maybe you have to tow or bring home grandfather clocks every day. But the majority of truck buyers would actually be happier with something else.

    1. As your “safety” item did not break down on a per capita or per vehicle basis, it’s useless. The two best selling vehicles also having the most of anything else is not newsworthy. It may be newsworthy that the 3rd best selling vehicle came in 5th, and that the Accord managed to be in 3rd, despite being nowhere near the top in sales.

    2. I agree with all of this, however another important factor is availability.
      I’m looking to buy a used Tahoe, Expedition, or maybe a Suburban as a family vehicle.
      In my 150 mile radius, there are just maybe a dozen or so for sale, most of them with a rough history per their Carfax reports.
      There are at least 4-5 times as many full size pickup trucks listed for sale from a similar age, mileage and price range in the same area.
      So this makes me reconsider the whole Tahoe idea and look for a half ton pickup with a topper.
      Sure, we’ll lose the 3rd row, not a deal breaker. Handling is equally as bad, MPG the same, cabin space same, you get the idea.

  20. So, who will make the fist if the new ‘wagonaires’ to accommodate for taller items in SUVs?

    Something closer to a 63 Stude, and less like a envoy XUV

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