If you rewind the clock about 20 years, smaller cars, which were then just called cars, were dominating the market and the highways. The top segment for American families was midsize sedans, and SUVs were things that people bought because they liked driving over rocks and up hills. Today, the sales of smaller cars have dropped below the sale of SUVs and something else strange has happened. The size of cars themselves have gotten bigger.
“No one wants small cars anymore,” says one market analyst from Grand Rapids, Michigan, “a family is much more likely to buy a Toyota Highlander over a Toyota Corolla or a Camry. The reason that automakers still invest in smaller cars is because there’s this idea that families are going to buy their kids their first car, and it’s going to be an actual car. This idea, true or false, even if it’s partly true, is something car manufacturers are willing to invest in because it creates brand loyalty and fond memories. Everyone remembers their first car. Even if it was a clunker, they loved it. Nonetheless, that doesn’t take up enough of the market to make up for the fact that SUVs are now the dominant segment.”
While the size of cars has gotten larger and larger over the years, with the midsize cars of today being similar in size to the fullsize sedans of 20 years ago, something else strange has happened. SUVs continue to get smaller and smaller, and also more carlike.
“SUVs really aren’t SUVs anymore, they’re just called SUVs,” he continued. “Crossovers are basically larger cars that are higher off the ground and fit more passengers. Take a midsize crossover like the Toyota Highlander. The Highlander is actually built on the same chassis as the read more Toyota Camry, but one is considered the quintessential family vehicle, and the other is considered something in most people’s price range, a first car for your kid, or a good car to drive around in the city. Meanwhile, the Camry gets much better gas mileage than the Highlander, because it’s smaller, but people don’t care. They want bigger and they’re willing to pay for it.”
Still, there are a number of good reasons that people would want to invest in smaller cars.
“First of all, smaller cars are cheaper,” he said. “You want a nice affordable vehicle, then a small car is the way to go. They’re much safer than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. They come loaded with airbags that come from every conceivable direction, and there’s a number of other safety features that are being developed every day. But the perception is that smaller cars aren’t safe, which is very unfair.”