Sedans Are Dying: Here’s Why
It’s no secret that there has been a historic shift when it comes to vehicle sales in the United States. In fact, SUVs are now outpacing sedans when it comes to sales. In my own family alone, 4 long-time sedan drivers have switched to SUVs in the past few years. You may have even heard the news that several large auto manufacturers, such as Ford and General Motors, are planning on discontinuing many, if not all, of their sedans in the near future. But why is this happening? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons behind the sedan’s fall from grace.
Size and Comfort
When surveying family and friends who have made the change from sedans to SUVs, one reason that I hear over and over again is that they enjoy the increased size of the SUV, and that they feel more comfortable driving from a more elevated position. Compared to sedans, which sit much lower, many people are finding that they have less aches and pains after long commutes, and that getting into and out of the vehicle is much easier. This is a significant differentiator because with an estimated 73.47 million baby boomers increasing in age, ergonomics is going to play an increasingly important role in their vehicle-buying process. For those with children, the increased size and height of the SUV makes it easier to load children in and out of the vehicle, especially those children who are still in car seats.
Another reason that sedans are falling out of favor with the public is due to perceived safety concerns. While it’s true that regardless of type, today’s vehicles are safer than ever before, the laws of physics have to be taken into account. In collisions between a smaller vehicle and a larger vehicle, in general, the smaller vehicle is going to take the brunt of the damage. In fact, research conducted by the University of Buffalo and reported by Consumer Reports states that “In car vs. SUV head-on crashes, the study found that the odds of death were 7.6 times higher for the car driver than the SUV driver.” So from the perspective of a consumer, if everyone else is purchasing larger vehicles, then I’m putting myself at risk by purchasing a smaller vehicle. While the higher center of gravity in SUVs promotes a greater chance of rollover, the introduction of electronic stability control, which has been mandatory since 2012, has greatly decreased the likelihood of a rollover.
Increased Gas Mileage of SUVs & Lower Fuel Costs
For years, one of the biggest negatives of SUV ownership was the vehicle’s lack of fuel efficiency. In the past, you’d be hard pressed to find an SUV that eclipsed the 25 miles per gallon (MPG) combined mark. In fact, according to Kelly Blue Book, in 2001 the most fuel efficient SUV on the market was the Suzuki Vitara, which achieved a combined city/highway rating of 24MPG. By comparison, every single vehicle on Kelly Blue Book’s Most Fuel Efficient SUVs of 2018 achieves over 30mpg combined. As the gap in fuel efficiency between sedans and SUVs narrowed, SUVs naturally became more attractive to buyers.
However, it’s not only increased fuel economy that has propelled the popularity of SUVs. Between the years 2011 and 2014, the average fuel cost in the United States was a whopping $3.57/gallon. These prices resulted in consumers being incredibly sensitive to their vehicle’s fuel economy. While SUVs had made significant improvements, they were still lagging behind the fuel efficiency that sedans could provide. However, in 2015, fuels prices began a steady decline that we’re still seeing today. From 2015 through 2017, average fuel cost fell down to an affordable $2.39/gallon. This decrease negated much of the advantage that sedans held over SUVs in the mind of consumers, and helped drag down sales.
As automakers continue to evolve their offerings to align with consumer preferences, it will be interesting to see whether or not sedans can hold the line and remain a significant part of the automotive industry, or if SUVs will continue to assert their dominance as the preferred vehicle of choice.