US car sales analysis Q4 2017 – Mid-sized SUV segment

Segment advanced to fourth largest as most models see good growth in 2017

US-sales-midsized_SUV-segment-2016-Kia_Sorento-Chevrolet_Traverse-Ford_Explorer-Dodge_Durango-Nissan_Pathfinder-Honda_Pilot-Toyota_HighlanderSales in the US mid-sized SUV segment rose by 10.3% to 542,547 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall in 2017 sales in the segment grew by 9.4% to 1,988,460. Such fast growth allowed the mid-sized SUV segment to overtake the mid-sized segment in terms of sales in 2017 for the first time, making it the fourth largest segment overall (after compact SUV, pick-up and compact segments). What’s more, things continue this way, the mid-sized SUV segment will overtake the shrinking compact segment in 2018, further cementing the dominance of crossovers over mainstream cars as the go-to family cars in the US. That this will happen is not a foregone conclusion, however, as after a lot of activity in 2017 (new arrivals include Buick EnclaveChevrolet TraverseGMC AcadiaMazda CX-9  and VW Atlas), there is a surprising dearth of new metal coming in 2018, the only exception being the new Hyundai Santa Fe. As a result, the real expansion of the segment may have to wait till 2019, when the aging Ford ExplorerJeep Grand CherokeeToyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder should finally see their replacements.


  • One of the most remarkable things about the segment is just how evenly the sales growth is spread across all models, and how few models experienced a significant decline in sales
  • There were no changes in the ranking at the top, with Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, longtime segment leaders (see second chart below), remaining first and second, followed by Toyota Highlander, all three aging models gaining around 10% in sales and staying well clear of the competition
  • The “second tier” is once again led by Ford Edge, which despite being less than two years old can only muster a 6% growth rate, and the soon-to-be-replaced Hyundai Santa Fe
  • The revised Toyota 4Runner, the remaining body-on-frame SUV in the segment, did well in 2017 to jump ahead of the unloved Honda Pilot, although after some re-pricing the latter was finally able to return to growth thanks to sales rising by almost 50% in the fourth quarter
  • The new Chevrolet Traverse only really hit the market properly in the fourth quarter, recording a modest 13.4% growth in sales, allowing its GMC Acadia cousin to close up thanks to growth of 25.8%, the highest in the Top 10
  • Newly relegated to tenth is the Kia Sorento, leading a pack of models which lost sales in 2017: Nissan Pathfinder (down 1%), its smaller and younger sister Nissan Murano (down 12%) and Buick Enclave, the latter seeing growth of over 50% in the fourth quarter as the new version finally hit the markets (too late to make up for lost sales earlier in the year, though)
  • The next group of models all saw great sales rises in 2017, with the Buick Envision almost tripling its sales (keeping in mind 2017 was its first full year on the market), the new Volkswagen Atlas having a successful debut (in fact outselling the Envision in the fourth quarter), and Mazda CX-9 continuing to slowly build its sales, albeit from a low base
  • At the bottom of the standings are the Ford Flex, still hanging on as a niche model despite eight years of age, and the all-but-discontinued Volkswagen Toureg

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

  1. This is my most favourite segment of all – the Family SUV segment!!!
    It’s nice to see Explorer on the top, because let’s be honest, Explorer was the model, which made US families to switch from sedans, station wagons and minivans to SUVs. Yes, there were models like Bronco, Blazer and Jeep Grand Wagoneer before Explorer, but Ford Exploere was the first mass, family oriented, middle class SUV, which made families, first in America and after that around the Globe, to reconsider their choice of a vehicle.
    But my favourite here is the Highlander and if we look at the global sales, worldwide Highlander outsells Explorer. During 2017, 342 159 Highlanders were sold in comparison to 320 720 Explorers, wich is normal, after all Toyota is much better accepted worldwide in comparison to Ford, because is considered more reliable.
    About VW Atlas, this car will not have big success and not because is a bad car, Americans just don’t like VW, sorry. Just like Europeans don’t like for example Honda. Hondas are big hit all over the world except for Europe. Same situation with VW in America. So even if VW offers a spaceship on the market in USA, locals will not buy it, not because it’s bad, but because is a VW.
    What I don’t see here, not even mentioned is the new big, even huge player for 2018 – Subaru Ascent!!! This models will be a huge hit. I expect it to sell about 15 000 per month on average, which will put it on 5th or even on 4th place. It will sell like hot cake, because it is the first mid-sized SUV of Subaru and just because it is a Subaru and America loves Subarus, because they never stop, they just keep rolling. In fact 98% of all Subarus from the past 10 years are still on the road.
    And finally I have a question to the author: How Explorer and Edge, Pathfinder and Murano, Enclave and Envision are on the same chart, when they are different models with different dimenssions and less or more seats? Plus why Buick is on the non-luxury chart? I know Buick is not as luxury as Mercedes or Audi, but is more premium than Ford, Toyota and Chevy, right?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.