Still hot demand for SUVs

You only have to look around to see SUVs are in hot demand. In 2018 so far, SUVs make up 43% of all new car sales in Australia, compared to 34% passenger and 23% commercial vehicles. They now hold a huge 42.2% market share, compared to passenger cars with 33.8%.

You might have recently bought one yourself. Or you might be wondering why other people love them so much.

What is an SUV?

What exactly do we mean by an SUV or sports utility vehicle? The term was first used to describe a light truck used as a family vehicle. It was designed to offer off-road travel (sport) and/or carry things around (utility).

Of course, many SUV drivers today don’t go off-road and carry only passengers and their usual stuff around town. SUVs need not even be sporty because “sport” can mean leisure, as in “sportswear”.

Sales and market shares

We bought thousands of them in Q1 2018. Sales of small, medium and upper large SUVs all climbed. Only sales of large ones dipped. Market share of medium SUVs is highest, at 18.1% and combined market share of all SUVs is 42.2%.

Note also Australia’s much loved utes are not far behind. Sales of 4WD utes were the second highest in Q1 2018 after medium SUVs.

Segment Q1 2018 Sales % Change over 2017 2018 Market share
Small SUV eg, Mitsubishi ASX 33,612 +26.9% 11.5%
Medium SUV eg, Mazda CX-5 52,886 +15.1% 18.1%
Large SUV eg, Toyota Prado 32,614 -6.6% 11.2%
Upper large SUV eg, Toyota LandCruiser 4,102 +9.2% 1.4%
Van eg, Toyota Hiace 5,289 -5.6% 1.8%
4×2 Ute eg, Toyota Hilux 9,589 +1.4% 3.3%
4×4 Ute eg, Ford Ranger 41,628 +14% 14.3%

Source: VFACTS data compiled by the FCAI.

What are the benefits of SUVs?

Many owners would claim these benefits of owning an SUV:

  • High seating position offers good vision
  • Lots of space inside and headroom for passengers
  • Practical for moving things in and out
  • Easy to climb in and out of
  • They feel safe
  • Four wheel drive
  • Sporty appearance
  • A “go anywhere” feel (even if you don’t).

One cheeky journalist even suggested people like the size of SUVs because they are overweight themselves. There must be some truth in it. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s Health 2018 report just found 60% of adults were now overweight or obese. Some must be driving SUVs.

What are the drawbacks?

Even so, some experts argue other vehicles offer the same benefits better than an SUV. For example:

  • Many SUVs are not really trucks but just raised compact cars
  • Vans are often more practical, without the fashionable appeal
  • Practicality versus size ratio is poor -a wagon or van costs the same
  • Safety is not assured – vision can be impaired and front wheels may lock up if the vehicle starts to tip over
  • Most ordinary cars already have four wheel drive
  • A car weighing 3 tonnes with a high centre of gravity is not really sporty
  • A coupé or roadster looks just as good (and is certainly sportier).

Meanwhile, a UK study found dogs may stress their front legs too much when jumping out of high SUVs. Chances of injury are greater if the dog has been in the vehicle for some time with no chance to warm up their legs.

As we all know, buying any vehicle is not necessarily a rational choice. It’s always a combination of heart and head.

Greenslips for SUVs

For green slip purposes, an SUV can be classified as a motor car or a light goods vehicle. it is not always obvious without checking your Registration Notice. When using the calculator, you may have to select Light Goods Vehicle, rather than Motor Car, to find your SUV make and model.

Read more about our love affair with SUVs and utes:

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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