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SUVs Dominant Choice among New-Vehicle Buyers in 2015

SUVs Dominant Choice among New-Vehicle Buyers in 2015

By Philly Murtha, August 18, 2015


SUVs, particularly compact crossover utilities, were among the most-in-demand vehicles in the United States during the first seven months of 2015, based on sales data collected by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. More than one of every three new vehicles purchased or leased during this period was an SUV.

A major driver behind the consumer trend to own an SUV is that gasoline prices remain reasonable, averaging $2.65 per gallon in mid-August vs. $3.47 a year ago,* while SUV engine performance and fuel economy improves. In addition, manufacturers continue to make upgrades to the utility, comfort, safety, and technology features of non-premium as well as luxury or premium SUV models.

In the first seven months, SUV deliveries were up 12.5%, to nearly 3.6 million units—significantly outpacing the industry’s 4.6% gain. Almost 400,000 more SUVs were sold or leased this year than in the same period of 2014. SUV market share grew by 2.5 percentage points to 35.9% compared with 33.4% a year ago.

In addition, seven of the 20 best-selling models in the United States were SUVs; six were compact SUVs, and one was a midsize SUV. Compact SUVs—one of the fastest-growing automotive segments—garnered the largest share among all eight SUV categories.** Deliveries were up 9.3% from a year ago, to 1.35 million units vs. 1.24 million units in 2014. Market share increased to 13.5% vs. 12.9% a year ago (+0.6%)—nearly double its share a decade ago.

During the first 7 months of the year, the redesigned 2015 Honda CR-V (194,803 unit sales) was the best-selling SUV, and was the only SUV to rank among the 10 best-sellers overall. Five more compact SUVs join the CR-V when the list is expanded to the 20 top-volume sellers. In order of sales volume from highest to lowest, they include the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Cherokee, and Jeep Wrangler.

It’s noteworthy that two of the six top-volume sellers—the Escape and Equinox—also tied as the most problem-free models at the segment level in the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality StudySM (IQS).

Rounding out the six compact SUVs among the top-20 volume sellers were two Jeep models: the Cherokee—redesigned for the 2014 model year with improved fuel mileage and more safety options—and the iconic Jeep Wrangler.

In addition, one midsize SUV made the top 20 list of best sellers in January-July. The Ford Explorer, updated for 2016 with front and rear styling changes and a new EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, was No. 15 on the sales chart. It led the second-largest midsize SUV segment, which boasted an 11% sales gain in the first seven months, with share climbing to 11.6% from 10.9% a year ago.

Among the remaining SUV segments, seven posted year-to-date gains. Only the large SUV segment, led by the Chevrolet Tahoe, posted a decline (-6.8%).

*Based on daily national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline from the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report (

**J.D. Power identifies eight SUV segments in its model classifications. Four are non-premium and four are premium categories.

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