Canadian buyers are flocking to compact utility vehicles and automakers are rushing to give them what they want.
It’s a trend that’s killing the traditional car market while creating a seismic shift the likes which some experts and auto executives have never seen before.
While automakers continue to add utility vehicles, both big and small, they have dialed back on adding new compact cars and sedans.
“There are not a lot of new nameplates in the midsize-passenger-car market, and most of the nameplates in it have existed for decades. So certainly the ‘new’ and ‘wow’ factors are on the SUV side of the business, and hence that product availability is resulting in sales,” said Robert Karwel, a senior manager in J.D. Power’s Canadian automotive division. “You’ll notice that new segments are being formed in Canada solely due to the introduction of new SUV nameplates.”
Most of the compact and some of the midsize utility vehicle models didn’t exist five or six years ago, Karwel said.
He said advanced engineering and better fuel efficiency have made all utility vehicles, from compact to full-size, “just tall passenger cars with few of them offering much off-road capability.”
Karwell called better ride quality, improved fuel economy, additional safety features and cargo space “a winning combination.”
“It’s these engineering or design traits that are bringing more people into the segment, because these vehicles are very easy to live with now, with few compromises, which was not the case 20 years ago when most of the business was built on traditional truck platforms,” he said.