The Mid-sized SUV segment grew by 14% year-on-year, slightly faster than the average growth rate of 12% for all non-premium SUVs and a lot faster than the market as a whole (4%). Interestingly, this growth can’t really be attributed to any particularly new model (sales of most newest models actually did not grow that quickly), it is more a factor of practically all models gaining across the board.
The Ford Explorer is the segment leader by a wide margin, selling more than 50% more cars than the second most popular model. The really surprising thing is that its sales grew by 17% even though the new, facelifted model was about to go on sale in the summer 2015 – possibly dealers were offering big discounts to make space for the new model. Also, one has to keep in mind that some of those sales go to the Police, for which the Explorer is the main vehicle in the US, but that is only around 12k units per half-a-year period.
In #2 is the first of the two big Japanese models, the Toyota Highlander. New for 2014, the model keeps gathering steam, and stays ahead of its long-term rival, the Honda Pilot, which is just behind it in #3. The impressive thing about the Pilot is that its sales grew by 36% even though the new model is about to go on sale any day now. Again, dealer discounts are probably the main driver of the surge in sales.
The Pilot’s sales surge pushes Ford’s Edge into fourth place, though the new generation of the latter only went on sale in April, so it could yet still recover 3rd spot once it picks up steam in the second half of the year. The unusual thing about the Edge is that it is one of the few cars in this segment that don’t offer a 3rd row of seats, and is instead sold as the handsome, “sporty” model compared to the more family-oriented Explorer.
Following closely in #5 and #6 are the Korean twins, the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. Despite the Kia being the newer of the two it did not really gain much in sales (9% growth year-on-year), though it’s interesting that it actually outsells the Santa Fe – this is one of the few segments where Kia sells more than Hyundai. The Santa Fe, for its part, is actually offered in two versions that differ substantially in length and styling – as the 5-seater Sport and 7-seater full-length version. They are followed in sales terms by the Toyota 4Runner, an old-school body-on-frame 5-seat SUV that enjoys a considerable following now that all its former competitors (Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder) have gone down the monocoque route.
In eight and ninth spot are the Nissan twins, though I should say they are clearly fraternal – the sales leader is the family-friendly but dumpy-looking Pathfinder, while the 5-seater Murano is by far the more stylish of the two. The new generation of the Murano went on sale early in 2015, contributing to a 39% year-on-year sales rise.
The final two spots are taken up by the Ford Flex (sales down 18%) and the Mazda CX-9. The Flex, a bold but ultimately flawed attempt to revive the american wagon as a raised crossover, is just about hanging in there through facelifts and discounts, but it’s unlikely it’ll be replaced. The Mazda CX-9, on the other hand, will be replaced in the next year, and if Mazda’s recent form is anything to go by it should be very good, though whether that will translate into an outright sales success remains to be seen.
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