US automakers also in love with small crossover SUVs image

While Europe has been swept away by the advent of the small crossover segment, it looks like the American automaker – long viewed as pick-up truck fans – follow the trend and now embark on their own journey.

Whether in the US, Europe or Japan, the one automaker to blame for this new niche is Nissan – the long lasting expert of 4×4 models has grown in recent years to become a trendsetter in the SUV segment as well. It decided to out as a compact model a crossover – the Quashqai and then ushered the era of the small crossover with the revolutionary looking Juke.

Now, after Europe was effectively assaulted by models in the segment coming from every major automaker, the US big three and even other Japanese competitors seem set on bringing their prowess to the game on their home soil.

Besides the success of Nissan’s Juke or Buick’s Encore – which is the US version of the Opel Mokka model – here come Chevrolet, Jeep and Honda to the game: with the Trax, Renegade and HR-V models.

“Both of those cars (Juke, Encore) exceeded expectations,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelly Blue Book. “When you have that small of an SUV you land in this sweet spot of smaller, lighter, fuel efficient, easier to handle and affordable.”

“There are people who don’t want to go back to driving a sedan,” said Christi Landy, GM marketing manager for small cars. “We see Trax providing an entry point for our SUVs.”

Worldwide, the subcompact SUV segment in which the small crossovers activate is reaching 2.7 million in annual sales – with around 1.1 million in Europe, the same figures for Asia and only around 250,000 in the U.S.