SUV sales in the crapper.Enlarge Photo
As fuel prices continue to edge up and the auto market remains soft, the sales decline of the traditional truck-based SUV looks to be permanent. What are people driving instead? What should you consider if you're in the market?
MSNBC reports that from their high-water mark in 2003, the percentage of market captured by SUVs has fallen from 17.1 percent to just 7.8 percent year to date. Specialty entries such as the excellent 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid are not produced in high enough volumes to stem this tide, and their price of entry is too steep to effect broader sales numbers. Chrysler canceled their hybrid Aspen and Dodge Durango models when the plant that produced those vehicles was shuttered leaving, so the availability of high-mileage full-size SUVs just isn't great.
The editors at TheCarConnection recommend looking to crossovers for many drivers who are abandoning the big SUVs. For example, the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse seats up to eight and can tow up to 5200 pounds. We've put plenty of miles on several different Traverse models, and think that these large crossovers represent the best alternative to big SUVs.
2009 Chevrolet TraverseEnlarge Photo
These big crossovers have been part of General Motors lineup for several years in the form of the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and the Saturn Outlook. At the recent launch of the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, Chevy front man Ed Peper said, "The Traverse is now the best-selling full-size crossover. Chevrolet has the largest number of dealers, and we were able to get the word out on this vehicle, so even though the other GM divisions were out before us, our retail organization has the power to get the volume flowing." He confirmed that the Traverse is providing an alternative to those buyers who want full-size room without the fuel-economy and overall size trade-offs of a traditional SUV.