S.U.V. sales continued to grow last year as buyers sought smaller-size models. But sales of larger S.U.V.'s like the Ford Explorer, Hummer H2 and Chevy Suburban appear to have reached a plateau, according to a New York Times report on February 8. And for the first time in a decade, the sales growth of full-size pickup trucks outpaced the growth of S.U.V.'s over all, according to an analysis by the Ford Motor Company. Sales of full-size pickups rose 6.6 percent last year from 2003, compared with overall S.U.V. sales growth of 4.3 percent, Ward's AutoInfoBank data shows. Full-size pickup trucks rose to 14.8 percent of the nearly 17 million cars and trucks sold in the United States last year, from 14.1 percent a year earlier and 8.4 percent at the beginning of the 1990's, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. By contrast, the market share of compact pickups has been cut in half over the last decade. Last year, middle- and large-size S.U.V.'s fell to 15.9 percent of the auto market, down from 16.5 percent a year earlier, according to Ward's, while smaller models continued to grow sharply, the New York Times report said. The industry is debating how much of the slowdown in sales of larger S.U.V.'s has to do with gasoline prices, changing tastes of baby boomers as they age, or the appeal of more S.U.V.-like pickup trucks. But the most potent alternative has been in an influx of crossover vehicles - sport utility vehicles designed to be more like cars, particularly from Asian brands. Asian automakers are also behind some of the recent growth in pickups and are selling far more pickups and S.U.V.'s than hybrid electric vehicles. This year, Honda will sell its first pickup truck, the Ridgeline. Nissan started selling its first full-size pickup truck, the Titan, late in 2003, and Toyota is building a new plant in San Antonio to more than double output of its big Tundra pickup.
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