September 26, 2002

Demand for SUVs in the U.S. continues to grow

Southfield, Michigan – Demand in the United States for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) continues to grow, according to a new analysis by R. L. Polk & Co.

New vehicle registrations and projections through the remainder of the 2002 calendar year show the segment commanding about 27 percent of all new personal retail registrations in the U.S. – the largest share of any passenger vehicle category.

“The SUV remains king of the American road,” said Lonnie Miller, director of Polk’s Analytical Solutions team. “The SUV appeals with performance, power, functionality — and even luxury — to a very diverse ownership group. Because SUV owners are so demographically diverse, it is impossible to accurately classify them as a group — other than to say they are people who want vehicles that offer an assortment of benefits to the driver.”

With roughly 80 different SUV models being offered next year, questions centre around what factors will drive continued demand for this category. A recent study conducted by R. L. Polk & Co. for the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers reaffirms that SUV owners appreciate the versatility and functional nature of their vehicles.

Twenty-seven percent of surveyed owners indicated that the main reason they feel satisfied with their SUV purchase was because they felt that it “fit their active lifestyle.” Another 24 percent stated they “felt very safe in this vehicle.” When asked how they use their SUV, nearly 80 percent indicated they sometimes or frequently drive in adverse weather conditions, with 17 percent accounting for this activi/ty on a “frequent” basis.

“People seeking an all-round vehicle that supports an active lifestyle love SUVs,” Miller said. “Manufacturers have successfully positioned SUVs as a full-service offering to consumers who want the ability to get some of the basic tasks done in their life. Now its appeal is expanding to a wider demographic, especially as more entries into the small and full-size luxury SUV segment are introduced.”

Another indicator of success for SUVs is repeat sales. Polk’s examination of consumer loyalty behavior for the first half of the 2002 model year (October 2001 – March 2002) shows 51 percent of all SUV owners stay within this overall category when they purchase another new vehicle. The industry average for loyalty to any given segment is slightly more than 41 percent. Polk loyalty results place SUV owners as the group with the second highest level of segment loyalty, outranked only by Prestige Luxury Vehicle owners.

“It’s no surprise that such a high level of SUV owners buy into the segment again,” Miller said. “Historically, our research has shown that SUV buyers favour functionality and reliability. But our research also clearly shows that in many cases across the country, SUVs are replacing cars to become the family vehicle, especially among owners of full-size SUVs.”

Top Three SUV Purchase Reasons*

  • Ideal for my active lifestyle (27.3 percent)
  • Felt very safe in this vehicle (24.0 percent)
  • Felt got good value for the money (13.7 percent)

Top Three Key Usage Areas (“Frequently”)

  • Drop off kids to various activities (24.7 percent)
  • Drive in harsh weather (17.0 percent)
  • Transport one child in child safety seat (16.3 percent)

*Based on 300 interviews conducted in August 2002 with owners of a 2000 – 2003 model year SUV

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