SUV sales set to overtake cars in 2017

New model onslaught to feed buyer frenzy


ONE in three new vehicles bought by Australians in 2014 was an SUV.

And that trend shows no sign of letting up – within three years SUVs are on target to outsell traditional passenger cars.

In November, SUVs occupied five spots in the top 10. Compare that to a decade ago. In 2004 – the year Ford’s groundbreaking Territory launched – not one SUV made the top 10, and SUVs accounted for barely 15 percent of the market.

Ten years further back, in 1994, the Wheels price guide listed just one SUV, the Toyota RAV4. Today, it’s hard to find a brand that doesn’t have one of these highriding family haulers on fleet.

The top-selling models for eight brands are now SUVs, and some of them may surprise you: Honda, Nissan, Subaru and Porsche. That’s right, Porsche.

Nissan has an astounding SUV models in its Aussie line-up, easily outnumbering its passenger seven e-enger car range. It is a brand that has essentially ditched large and small cars for SUVs – and it’s worked.

“It’s important to have a diverse SUV and crossover range simply because of its importance in the Australian new-vehicle market,” Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery said. “We expect their popularity to remain strong.”

Like them or not – and it’s clear more and more Australians do – the SUV wave of popularity shows no sign of slowing. If the SUV tsunami rolls on at current rates, it will swamp traditional passenger cars in 2017.

Looking at the volume and variety of SUVs headed to Oz in 2015, there’s absolutely no reason to doubt this.

More than a dozen new and upgraded SUVs will launch here this year, including the funky Citroen C4 Cactus and Honda HR-V, the Mercedes-Benz GLE rival to BMW’s X5, the next-gen Volvo XC90 and all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport, as well as the compact Mazda CX-3 that Wheels estimates could add 12-15,000 sales to Mazda’s bottom line. That would make it the brand’s secondbest seller behind the hot-selling 3 hatch and sedan.

Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders says you won’t succeed in our fiercely competitive market selling only hatches and sedans. “The SUV allows you to downsize, yet the packaging advantages mean you don’t lose space,” he told Wheels.

While the hatch segment is still the biggest of the market, the SUV is bearing down on its slice of the sales pie.

“Add together the three SUV segments – small, medium and large – and it’s pretty similar [to hatch sales],” Benders said.

It’s clear the SUV is redefining the term ‘new car’ Down Under.