GM have been enjoying great success with their Buick Encore, which hasn't only received great reviews but has also been getting a lot of sales – contributing to GM's best October since 2007. But the Encore isn't the only crossover that's made a big splash in the auto industry. There's the Pontiac Aztek that's a cross between a minivan and an SUV, there's the Chrysler Pacifica that's somewhere between a station wagon and SUV and then there's the CR-Vs, the Ford Escapes, the Toyota RAV4s… it seems like crossovers are taking over the market and quickly becoming almost the 'default' for car manufacturers.
When asked whether Jaguar would consider a crossover, Design Director Ian Callum reportedly responded with: 'Why not? Everyone else is doing it'. Earlier this year Rolls-Royce also showcased a digital concept for a crossover of their own. It seems every really is doing it. This is a historic transition for the auto industry, but what's responsible? What's behind this move towards the crossover?
Modern Cars for a Modern World
Simply put, smaller cars, more efficient and more versatile cars are better at meeting the demands of modern living and at the same time, smaller sizes allow manufacturers to put more effort into the interiors and the design without racking up the price.
Where did these alien hybrids come from? Why Japan of course – where else. They rose to prominence in the 19990s after Honda and Toyota started selling them to US customers.
Benefits of Crossovers
There are a ton of benefits when it comes to crossover SUVs, but to name just a few:
Crossovers provide car-like riding and handling along with a great number of features
They offer small, sleek and sturdy designs that are surprisingly appealing
Most are highly affordable and provide good value for money
The small size makes them handy for navigating busy urban environments and finding parking spots
They are fuel efficient, helping to keep running costs down and letting buyers feel good about themselves for shrinking their carbon footprints
High ride height is enjoyable for many while this also makes interiors more spacious
Good clearance height means they can handle steep curbs and deep potholes
They're often able to handle more adventurous trips for families looking to enjoy day trips and other excursions
To draw parallels with the smartphone industry, this is essentially an example of 'convergence' at play. Convergence is a term used by tech-analysts that describes what happens when manufacturers move more and more towards 'middle of the road' compromises. In smartphone terms this is clear to see with the emerging dominance of the 'phablet' – a phone that is half phone and half tablet. This results in a small sacrifice in terms of pocketability and practicality, but in exchange the user gets to enjoy a huge screen and only has to carry one device around instead of two. Eventually this is likely to get to the point where a single device can replace your tablet, phone and computer (Surface Pro anyone?).
The crossover SUV is the automobile's equivalent of convergence and is to 'regular' cars what the phablet is to the 'regular' tablet. You might be making a sacrifice in terms of the visual impact and the power of your car, but in exchange you get a 'Jack of all trades' that is highly practical and boasts numerous unique features that you would otherwise need two separate vehicles for.
Thus, traditional station wagons are difficult to find these days and minivans too are practically disappearing. As crossovers grow we can only expect other sections of the market to shrink. Will we soon see crossover sedans?