US car sales analysis Q4 2017 – Compact SUV segment

The largest segment got larger, while new cars are outperformed by established segment players

Sales in the US compact SUV segment, the largest of all segments, rose by 5.8% to 806,341 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall in 2017 sales in the segment grew by 4.6% to 3,159,468. What’s more, there seems to be no end in sight for this bonanza – not only did 2017 see a ton of new models debut in the market (Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5Jeep CompassKia NiroGMC Terrain, Subaru XV Crosstrek, VW Tiguan L), but models like the Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Tucson showed that even more established models can see fast growth. That said, 2018 looks to be less frenetic than 2017, with only the new Jeep Wrangler and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, as well as the revised Jeep Cherokee and Hyundai Tucson confirmed so far. Will this slow the segment’s growth? We would not bet on it…


  • Despite a last-minute surge in the fourth quarter, when its sales rose by 20.7%, Nissan Rogue was unable to take back first spot from Toyota RAV4 after it held onto it firmly in Q1 and Q2’17; still, it finished 2017 in close-second, leapfrogging the new Honda CR-V, which is clearly struggling to gain sales traction
  • The new Chevy Equinox, by comparison, was received very well by the market, resulting in a strong 20% gain in sales compare to 2016, and allowing it to come closer to the Ford Escape in overall standings than it has ever managed – it may yet overtake its aging domestic rival in 2018 (see second graph below)
  • While sixth- and seventh-placed Jeep Wrangler and Subaru Forester almost managed to hold onto their sales in 2017, the same cannot be said for Jeep Cherokee, which kept bleeding sales all throughout 2017, until it bounced back strongly in Q4’17 with sales growth of over 25%; still, this was not enough to prevent a double-digit loss in overall 2017 sales

Note: Clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off

  • The new Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV Crosstrek were both received favorably by the market, resulting in year-on-year growth of around 15%, though that was put to shame by the almost-30% growth experienced by the older Hyundai Tucson
  • Another car that found favor with buyers in 2017 was the new Jeep Compass, though the growth of over 30% the model experienced in the second half of the year was not enough to make up for the even-greater fall in sales the previous generation experienced in the first half of the year
  • By comparison, the less-than-two-year-old Kia Sportage lost 10% of sales in 2017, a stark contrast with its successful Tucson cousin, while the age finally seems to have caught up with Dodge Journey, with sales falling by half in Q4’17
  • Two cars that all but exited the market by the end of 2017 were Jeep Patriot and VW Tiguan, the latter replaced by the increasingly successful VW Tiguan L
  • The only dedicated hybrid that can be classified as a compact SUVKia Niro, did well in 2017 to score almost 30,000 sales, though in such a high-flying segment this was only good for third-from-back place in the standings

Note: clicking on the model names in legend turns the display for that model on/off; data is displayed from 1990 onwards, but starts earlier – access previous years using slider on bottom