The future’s an SUV?

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Americans for decades have been fans of sport utility vehicles.  According to the world-wide statistics, SUV sales are on the way up everywhere.

Ford Motor Co. is one automaker looking to capitalize on the trend.  The BRICS market (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will see Ford offer a mix of small and medium-size SUVs for consumers there.

Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president of global marketing, sales, service and Lincoln indicated that where American car buyers in the past preferred large SUVs with off-roading capability and room for an entire family, global vehicle shoppers are thinking less about sport and more about utility.

Ford EcoSportFord EcoSport

“The opportunity is not the image of barreling off-road,” Farley said at Ford’s World Headquarters in Dearborn. “It’s the idea of a utility vehicle in an urban setting.”

The growth rate has been phenomenal, with global sales of utilities – crossovers and SUVs – growing 35 percent since 2005, according to data from IHS Automotive, which is backed up by the Tier 1 manufacturer Continental Automotive.  Even in Europe, where economic woes have depressed the auto industry, the utility vehicles segment is one area in which sales have grown during the past two years.

Most of the growth in utility vehicles across the world since 2005 is from subcompact and compact crossovers like Ford’s EcoSport and Escape, Toyota’s RAV4 and the Honda’s CR-V, with sales of subcompact and compact crossovers more than doubling.  Sales of midsize SUVs and crossovers are up 56 percent since 2005, while sales in the full-size segment are down 22 percent.  The message was there for all the automakers to see.

Sales of all sizes of utility vehicles will reach nearly 14 million this year, up from about 8 million in 2009.  By 2017, subcompact and compact utility vehicle sales are expected to reach 11 million annually.

In China, the world’s fastest-growing auto market, sales of subcompact and compact utilities have grown from 120,000 in 2005 to 1.4 million last year.

So what is your next vehicle?  Thailand still has the love affair with the pick-ups, but the SUV’s are rapidly catching up.