After a 3.9% increase in 2016, sales in the Compact SUV segment pick up steam and improve 9% in the first quarter of 2017, to 742,230 units. This makes it by far the largest segment with a comfortable lead of more than 200,000 sales over the second-largest segment, that of large pickup trucks. It’s also 270,000 sales ahead of the midsized sedan segment, which used to be the biggest segment until 2013. A whole bunch of new or redesigned models will hit the market this year or already have in the first quarter, which should only help the cars in this segment consolidate its position as the family-hauler favorites.
Highlights for Q1 2017:
Now that it’s no longer capacity restrained and thanks to a clever marketing tie-in with the Star Wars: Rogue One movie, the Nissan Rogue suddenly rises from a distant third place to commanding leader of the segment, outselling all of its rivals in each of the first three months for a gain of 46.9% to a total of more than 100,000 sales. The only blemish I can find to this impressive performance is that it’s not a record breaker in terms of sheer volume: the Honda CR-V sold over 104,000 units in Q3 of 2016.
As a result, the CR-V is in danger of losing the segment crown it has consistently held since 2012, if the Rogue can keep up this kind of performance. However, I believe Honda shouldn’t be too worried, as a new generation CR-V has also shown impressive gains of 32.1% with lower incentives. What’s more, Nissan will bring the slightly smaller 5-seater only Qashqai/Dualis to the US this year as the Rogue Sport, and although it will certainly increase Nissan’s total volume in the segment, it may cannibalize a little on the regular Rogue.
From class leader in Q1 2016, the Toyota RAV4 is down into a distant third place as it only gains 5.8% this year. That means the fourth-placed Ford Escape is inching towards its Japanese rival with a gain of 6.6%.
The Chevrolet Equinox wins 4.7% as the new generation has just entered showrooms and should give the model a boost from Q2 onwards, allowing it to reconnect with the top-4. The Subaru Forester leapfrogs 2 Jeeps (Wrangler and Cherokee), as the former is still impressively stable in the last phase of its life cycle, while the latter is down by a harsh 17.7% with no updates in sight. In contrast, the elderly Dodge Journey gains an incredible 30.2%.
The Jeep Patriot and Compass are understandably down by about half their volume as they’re in runout mode to prepare fore the arrival of the all-new Compass in Q2, which will replace them both.
After an impressive gain in 2016, the Kia Sportage is already down again by double digits, while sister model Hyundai Tucson also stabilizes and loses share as the rest of the segment outperforms it. The Sportage may feel some cannibalization from the Niro hybrid which arrived this quarter.
The Volkswagen Tiguan had its best year in the history of the nameplate last year and continues to grow in 2017, even while the new generation hasn’t been introduced in North America yet. The new 7-seater long wheelbase version of that car should help VW improve further in this segment.
The Mitsubishi Outlander benefits from its facelift to grow significantly and outsell its smaller sibling Outlander Sport for the first time since the latter was introduced. Still no word of when the PHEV version will make it Stateside, though.
Best selling newcomer is the Buick Envision, imported from China, and selling a still nimble 8,910 units, but improving every month, while the hybrid Kia Niro arrived in February and already outsold the Outlander Sport in March for a promising start.
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
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