Sport utility vehicles and crossovers have eclipsed the four-door sedan to become the most popular style of vehicle sold in the United States.
IHS Automotive said Wednesday that 36.5 percent of cars registered through May were SUVs. Sedans made up 35.4 percent of the market, the research firm said.
Though the market share difference isn’t great, it is striking because sedans have long been the prevailing people-mover on American highways. IHS said this is the first time the sedan has been unseated as the top-seller.
The changeover has been aided by a number of small crossovers either launched or significantly improved over the last several years. In particular, IHS pointed to the recently redesigned Nissan Rouge, Subaru Forester, and the new Jeep Cherokee. The Cherokee is built in Toledo.
There have also been new large sport-utilities launched recently, such as the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe, though most of the gains are coming on the smaller side.
“The crossovers have driven the growth” said Tom Libby, an industry analyst at IHS. “The appeal of that concept is really the combination of the best of cars and the best of trucks in one vehicle.”
Crossovers are somewhat broadly defined, but usually mean a vehicle built on a car platform that retains truck-based SUV attributes. Generally they give drivers a higher seating position with better visibility, more ground clearance, and often offer all-wheel drive capability without sacrificing ride quality or fuel economy — something their truck-based cousins can’t compete with.
And quite simply, carmakers are getting better at building them.
“All the manufacturers are now getting on board, and they’re coming out with more competitive products,” Mr. Libby said.
Jeep has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the trend, with U.S. sales up 45 percent through June.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers made up about 36 percent of the local market through May, according to figures from the Toledo Auto Dealers Association. That’s up from 31 percent of the market in 2013.
Analysts figure the trend toward more buyers choosing crossovers will continue, at least in the near term.
IHS provided more than four years of data, which show SUV’s market share growing by more than 16 percent from 2009. Every other major segment within the market shrunk over that period.
As nearly all non-luxury brands have compact crossovers covered, they are racing to go even smaller. Late this year or early next year, Chevrolet will start selling its Trax subcompact SUV. Jeep will roll out its Renegade, and Honda will launch its HR-V.