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Compact SUVs Continue to Gain U.S. Market Share in March

Compact SUVs Continue to Gain U.S. Market Share in March

By Philly Murtha,

Compact SUVs--in particular car-based crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) that are built on unibody platforms--continue to outperform the overall industry in the U.S. new-vehicle sales market. These popular sport utility models posted the highest increases among all vehicle segments in March and also outpaced many other segments in the first 3 months of the year, according to new-car sales data compiled by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

In March, the Compact SUV segment, with 14 available models, posted a 12.4% increase from a year ago (adjusted for one less selling day than in the same month of 2014), outdistancing the industry's 4.6% year-over-year gain.

Honda CR-V Still Segment Leader, but Nissan Rogue Gaining Quickly
Although the Honda CR-V, which was refreshed for 2015 with a few styling changes, stronger body architecture to improve safety, and a more fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT), remains the segment sales leader, deliveries slipped slightly in March 2015 to 27,618 unit sales from 28,657 unit sales a year ago.

The 2015 Nissan Rogue captured 27,418 sales in March--only 200 units behind the segment's top-selling Honda CR-V. Equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Rogue is more fuel-efficient than previous models, with an average estimated fuel-economy rating of 33 mpg, according to the EPA.

The Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and the Chevrolet Equinox rounded out the top five sellers in March, respectively.

Two other models in the compact SUV segment that posted strong sales gains in March compared with a year ago include the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler. Sales of the Subaru Forester and the smaller-volume Mitsubishi Outlander have also increased from March 2014. However, sales of the Nissan Xterra declined in March and were among the weakest numbers of all models.

Compact SUVs are Second-Most Popular Vehicle Segment
Through the first 3 months of the year, compact SUV sales have grown by 8.9%, to 524,961 units vs. 482,148 unit sales in the same period of 2014--an additional 42,813 units. Quarterly market share rose by nearly one-half point to 13.3% from 12.9% a year ago.

This in-demand segment's market share in the first quarter of 2015 is larger than several other major segments, including large pickups (12% share) and midsize SUVs (11.8% share). Only the midsize car share (14.3%) surpassed compact SUVs, even though the midsize share has decreased by one point from the same period in 2014.

In the first quarter of 2015, the CR-V, now in its fourth generation, followed by the Escape, RAV4, Equinox, and Rogue were the highest-volume sellers, respectively.

Segment Leaders Undergo Continual Improvements
In addition to the items previously mentioned, an upscale Touring trim level with 18-in. aluminum wheels and a power liftgate also has been added to the 2015 CR-V lineup.

It is likely that Honda's rival Toyota RAV4 will continue to reap higher sales with the introduction of a refreshed 2016 model that was introduced at the recent 2015 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS). A new RAV4 Hybrid will be available in all trim levels and will join the RAV4 model lineup, in addition to a sport-tuned SE variant with larger aluminum wheels and transmission paddle shifters similar to those used in premium and racing vehicles.

Other compact SUVs, or crossovers, that may experience sales boosts soon because of revamped models include the 2016 GMC Terrain and the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander, both of which were introduced at this year's New York Auto Show.

Although J.D. Power and LMC Automotive currently classify the Hyundai Tucson as a small SUV, the redesigned 2016 model was also revealed at the NY Auto Show as an entry in the compact crossover category with major design, engineering, and technology changes.

Small SUVs Also Selling Well
Similar to their slightly larger counterparts, small SUVs are also enjoying increased sales in the U.S. market. This category posted double-digit growth in March and for the first three months of 2015 vs. the same period in 2014. Some 135,600 units were sold in the first quarter of 2015. The Kia Sportage is the best-selling model in this segment. The other four top entries, in order of sales volume, are the Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Juke, and the Volkswagen Tiguan. These five small SUVs account for a 3.4% share of the overall market through the first 3 months, up from 3.1% in the same period of 2014.

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