US: small crossovers boom missed out by Ford and Toyota image

The SUV and crossover boom has spanned across all niches and segments, and after Europeans proved their appetite for the smaller, subcompact models it’s time to prove that Americans also love such city dwellers.

The Buick Encore was among the first such models to signal the mini-crossover avalanche – and its European roots are undeniable, since it was based on the Opel Mokka. The Chevrolet Trax followed suit and now everybody else, from the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3 to the Fiat 500X are signaling a rapid ascension in popularity for the segment. There are still carmakers that seem to go on oblivious to the growth in demand in that region – SUV expert Ford and market-filling Toyota. It’s true, just like most SUV segments and niches, the mini-SUV market – city utes’ as they are nicknamed today, because the crossovers mostly serve urban scenarios – was inexistent just a few years ago. In the US, the Mini Countryman, which hit dealerships in early 2011, could claim paternity rights – becoming the brand’s top selling model last year. Nissan’s Juke is a model to debate – it was a little faster than the Countryman on the market – but sales tracker and category-assigner Autodata counts the model as a car, not a sports utility vehicle.

The mainstream kick-off model was the Encore, bringing a sales spree after it began deliveries in January 2013, becoming one of the brand’s best-selling models. The Chevrolet Trax aimed to internally capitalize on the trend, being set as a less expensive alternative and was introduced last September. Last month saw the sales birth of the Jeep Renegade, already accounting for almost 1,000 sales even as stocks were building up.