Americans still love sport utility vehicles, but their ardor is turning more to car-based models than the truck-based off-road vehicles that dominated the 1990s, according to the Chicago Tribune
."The handwriting is on the wall, and 2003 is thefirst model year there is a noticeable decline in sales of traditional SUVs," said George Pipas, Ford Motor Co.'s sales analyst. "They won't go away overnight, but, by the end of the decade, the crossovers will probably outsell the traditional sport-utility vehicles."SUV sales grew to a record 4.5 million last year, about 300,000 more than 2002 and 27 percent of the (16.7 million) new vehicles purchased. That was despite a 4 percent sales decline, to 2.8 million, in truck-based models such as the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Tahoe and Mitsubishi Montero, according to the Tribune
.Meanwhile, sales of car-based "crossover" models such as the Ford Escape, Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander rose 35 percent, to nearly 1.7 million vehicles. Sales of crossovers, which tend to be smaller, lighter and somewhat more fuel efficient, have increased more than 500 percent since1999, the Tribune
said.The rugged, go-anywhere image of the truck-based SUVs sold well in the 1990s, but Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), said the car-like qualities of crossovers are in tune with what many Americans need. "They're matching the style of the SUV with their actual lifestyle," Taylor said. "Typically, the mostchallenging assignment for these vehicles is a gravel road. You don't need a truck-based sport utility to get through that."