SUV sales soar where temperatures sink

June 28, 2017

SUV sales are soaring like the mercury in our thermometers. Ironically, though, a new study suggests that utility vehicles are hottest where the temperatures are cool. 

That study was carried out by the website with the name we love to loathe, Carjojo. Analysts pored over a year's worth of sales data from U.S. metro areas, and in doing so, they discovered that in cities with low winter temps, SUVs accounted for a significantly larger percentage of total auto sales.

As you can see from the chart above, 33 percent of all vehicle sales in Denver, Colorado were SUVs--the highest percentage in the study. Denver also had the lowest average winter temperature of any city, at 36 degrees.

At the other end, we find Los Angeles, which has an average low temperature of 56 degrees. Just 15 percent of vehicles bought by Angelenos were SUVs--less than half the figure seen in Denver. 

The study notes that winter temperatures in the ten SUV-hungriest cities are 34 percent colder than in the ten cities with the least demand for SUVs.

To be sure, the study isn't perfect: Miami is far warmer than Los Angeles, boasting an average winter temp of 70 degrees. However, SUVs accounted for a greater portion of Miami's overall sales than in colder places like LA and Riverside, California. 

However, the study does suggest that there's a significant link between temperatures and the demand for SUVs--a link that has implications for both automakers and consumers. Car companies obviously want to sell more product and can use data like this to shift more SUVs to colder climes. Meanwhile, bargain-hunting buyers who need an SUV might find better deals in warmer cities, where demand is softer. 

Before we put too much faith in studies like this, we'd want to see a deeper dive into the material. For example: what does demand for SUVs look like in other cities at the temperature extremes (Juneau, Alaska comes to mind)? What about rural areas? Would this chart look the same if the site culled data from entire states rather than cities? On the whole, the study generates more questions than answers, but it's an interesting start.  

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