Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are on trend. They are safe, comfortable and give drivers a feeling of freedom. On the trail of a success story.
On a cold winter day, an old acquaintance visits Robert Schmid. His guest used to drive Volkswagen cars, but then he switched to the competition. Now he’s standing at Schmid’s desk at the Volkswagen dealership in Munich and is set on trying out a T-Roc. “We test drove it the same day. Right afterward, the customer bought the car. We won him back after more than ten years with our SUV offensive,” says Sales Manager Schmid.
The scene in Volkswagen's Munich dealership is currently being repeated at many car dealers: Sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, are top sellers. In the past, Schmid remembers, all-wheel drive SUVs were mainly for people who took frequent trips to the mountains. Thanks to many additional models in various vehicle classes, that has changed. “Young families buy SUVs, so do single people and retired couples,” Schmid states. Many business clients are also choosing sport utility vehicles.
In Schmid's experience, SUVs are attractive to customers for three key reasons: visibility, safety, comfort. “The seating position in an SUV is high. This gives me a better overview of the street so I can see earlier if I need to react to a risky situation,” the sales manager says. He explained that many customers also find it very easy to climb in and out of an SUV. “Once they have decided on an SUV, they won’t forego this level of comfort.”
Alfred Fuhr, a Frankfurt sociologist specializing in transportation, also considers the need for safety to be an important factor in the success of the SUV. It’s an important motivation particularly for parents. Another factor, according to Fuhr, is the sense of freedom that SUVs convey: I could suddenly decide to make a turn and go off-roading. This sense of freedom, comfort, speed and safety make an SUV an all-rounder. “To me as a customer, that is the best of all automotive worlds.”
The tremendous comfort and recreational value offered by SUVs are factors also pointed out by Markus Leone, General Sales Manager of the Munich Audi dealership: “The high cargo area makes loading and unloading after a shopping trip very easy.” And sport utility vehicles are perfectly suited for driving to recreational activities, too. After all: “Whether I’m going surfing or golfing, I don’t have to worry that my equipment won’t fit in the trunk,” he says. Another factor is the angular and stylish design that makes many SUVs optically interesting as well.
At Audi’s Munich dealership, the great SUV success story began with the Audi Q7 in 2005, Leone reports. “It really took off,” he states. Other attractive models like the Q33, Q5 and Q82 followed, sharply boosting the segment’s market share. “One-third of all new cars we sell are now SUVs,” according to Leone.
Whether it’s an Audi, Porsche, ŠKODA or SEAT, the Volkswagen Group’s brands meet customer demand for SUVs with many attractive vehicles. An example is Volkswagen Passenger Cars: By 2020, 19 SUV models will be sold internationally from Polo compacts to large models like the Atlas, which is being met with enthusiasm in the United States. In many markets, SUVs are proving to be important growth drivers. Every seventh Volkswagen sold today is already a sport utility vehicle.
Back to the Volkswagen dealership in Munich. Sales Manager Schmid likes to describe the shift toward SUVs using the T-Roc, the car he sold his old friend, as an example: “When that car came on the market at the end of 2017, we displayed more than 40 T-Rocs in our showroom. They were all gone very quickly.” Following the T-Roc, the sales manager is looking forward to the T-Cross1, which will be released in spring 2019 as Volkswagen’s smallest SUV on the market. “This car will primarily attract young drivers focused on lifestyle.” The T-Cross features a striking design and is surprisingly roomy considering its length of only 4,107 millimeters. “In a city like Munich, compactness is a major advantage when looking for parking spaces,” Schmid explains.
Markus Leone from the Audi dealership is also counting on the SUV success story continuing thanks to new, strong models. One reason is that in the fourth quarter, customers in Germany and other European countries will see the release of the new Audi Q3. The second generation Q3 is roomier and more comfortable than its predecessor and offers a number of infotainment systems that are otherwise only available in luxury cars. In September, the brand also debuted its first purely electric series model, the Audi e-tron3, a sporty luxury SUV suitable for everyday driving. Two electric drive motors make the Audi e-tron a powerful, nearly silent ride that does not cause emissions on the road. Initial deliveries to European customers are planned as of the end of 2018.
- 1T-Cross - The vehicle is a pre-series concept car.
- 2Audi Q8 - Fuel consumption (combined) in l/100 km: 6.8-6.6; CO2 emissions (combined) in g/km: 179-172 (information on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in ranges depending on the tires/wheels used).
- 3Audi e-tron and Audi Q3 - The vehicles are not yet configurable.