| CARCHEX Research Center

The Crossover – The New King Of The Road

What looks like a smoothed out SUV, drives like a car, and hauls stuff around like a minivan? It’s the crossover vehicle, and it’s taking over America’s roadways. In fact, many car manufactures have seen car sales decline while crossover sales soar. What has led to the huge popularity of this vehicle? Let’s find out.

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SUV Roots

In the late 1990s, SUVs like the original Ford Explorer hit the market, but they were actually just large vehicles built on a truck platform. Minivans employed a similar strategy in the 1980s. Using a common chassis allowed car manufacturers to offer larger vehicles without violating fuel-economy, safety, or environmental regulations.

The SUV ushered in a sense of adventure which was a big selling point. More importantly, the appearance of the SUV planted concepts in the car buyer psyche that would later lead to the rise of the crossover. In the SUV you could see the road better since you sat up high, and you had plenty of cargo space. Plus, if you wanted to, you could go off road. However, the growth of the SUV market was limited by their size and their poor gas mileage.

The Best Of All Worlds

The first modern-day crossover, the Toyota RAV 4, was revolutionary since it was built on a car body. This meant better maneuverability and gas mileage. Although the width of a crossover is not much different than a family sedan, space is gained in height, including extra leg room. This provides what many valued most about SUVs, such as riding high and storage space. Plus, a crossover drives like a car. This magic formula has won crossovers the devotion of families across the country.

The crossover design also trumps the minivan or station wagon as crossovers are not long vehicles. Over the years the shape has become more rounded, but the essential characteristics remain the same.

We should also give a nod to what was perhaps the first crossover ever: the AMC Eagle. Built in the 1980s this was a true crossover, and it had many loyal fans. Ahead of it times, the Eagle’s production stopped in 1988 after Chrysler bought out AMC.

Proof In The Numbers

If there’s any doubt about the popularity of crossovers, just look around you. And if that doesn’t convince you, the numbers will. For example, Ford has been racking up some of it best overall sales numbers in nearly a decade, while its car sales (e.g. sedans) have declined. Meanwhile, Ford’s crossover sales have risen more than 12 percent. Similar patterns have unfolded at GM, Buick, and Cadillac.

Even Honda’s Accord and Civic sales have taken a significant hit as crossovers continue to devour market share across the board.

A New Generation

Today’s families have chosen a new go-to vehicle. With its versatility and superior handling, the crossover has firmly established itself as the new King of the Road.
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