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SUVs bear down on car sales

By Earle Eldridge, USA TODAY
Midsize cars continue to be the top-selling segment in the U.S. automotive market. But maybe not for long. The family sedans are losing market share every year, while midsize sport-utility vehicles are gaining.
In fact, midsize SUVs are expected to outsell midsize cars sometime in the next five to 10 years, depending on who's doing the forecasting. (Related photos: Midsize battle heats up)

Regardless of when, it likely will mean fewer choices for diehard car lovers but a wealth of offerings — and probably competitive pricing — in the hot SUV market.

The premium midsize car segment, which includes Toyota (TM) Camry, Honda (HMC) Accord and Ford (F) Taurus, has 16.6% of the market this year, according to the Power Information Network, an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates. That's down from 17.9% in 2000.

Meanwhile, midsize SUVs have increased market share this year to 10.5%, up from 10.1% in 2000. But more important, the percentage of premium midsize car buyers who trade in for a midsize SUV has grown to 12.6% this year from 8.8% in 2000.

"There will always be demand for midsize cars," says Tom Libby, director of industry analysis for the Power Information Network. "It is a very fundamental, utilitarian product. The price for that premium midsize will always be lower than a midsize SUV, and it's perfect for buyers who don't give a hoot about four-wheel drive. They just want to get from point A to point B."

Still, Libby predicts midsize SUVs will outsell midsize cars in five years.

In fact, every category of SUVs except full size is expected to grow over the next decade. The number of midsize car buyers trading up to a luxury SUV, for example, grew to 1.9% in 2003, up 171% from 2000.

Manufacturers who have never been in the SUV market are giving it a whirl, including Porsche with its Cayenne, Volkswagen with its Touareg and Honda with its Pilot. Automakers are investing more of their money in developing and upgrading SUVs. Most of the newer ones are crossovers — based on car rather than pickup underpinnings to give them more carlike rides. Toyota and Ford Motor are planning gas-electric hybrid versions of some SUVs.

But few automakers are ignoring the midsize car market.

Paul Ballew, director of market and industry analysis for General Motors, says midsize cars will begin to mimic SUVs, adding convenience features such as fold-down rear seats — already in the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx — and all-wheel drive — now showing up in luxury sedans.

Ford thinks it will take a decade for midsize SUVs to overtake midsize cars. "The midsize car is still the largest segment of any kind in the United States, and it is very important to have a strong entry in the segment," says George Pipas, sales analyst for Ford.

That's one reason Ford and GM (GM) are putting money into the entry midsize market — cars that are a little smaller and a little less expensive than those considered premium midsize.

Ford dropped its entry midsize car, Contour, when it introduced the Focus compact car in 2000. That meant customers who wanted a car bigger than the Focus had to leap to the much bigger Taurus.

By contrast, GM sells the entry-level midsize Malibu as a step up from the compact Cavalier but smaller than the premium midsize Impala.

Ford now plans to bring a new car, Futura, to market as a 2006 model, fitting it between Focus and Ford Five Hundred, the Taurus replacement.

Despite that, Pipas figures the growth of midsize SUVs is inexorable.

In fact, he says that sometime in January, Ford will sell its 5 millionth Explorer, the best-selling SUV. The Explorer first went on sale in March 1990 as a 1991 model.

"But by the end of the decade, you will see a noticeable decline in midsize car sales, and midsize SUVs will probably dominate the market," Pipas says.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2003-12-15-midsize_x.htm
 

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I can't understand why GM would spend a lot of money introducing another mid-size model, namely, the Epica. It is the same size and price range as the new Malibu.

If mid-size cars are still the top selling vehicles, then why are GM and Chrysler going to bother completely re-tooling the upcoming V8 RWD Impala, and the V8 RWD Intrepid? If people like a v6, midsize, why bother?
 

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It's funny, I'm noticing the 70's early 80's happening all over again. Except station wagons are becoming SUV's and the big family sedan is become a midsize comuter car. I'm glad to see RWD coming back though. It's been sorley missed. I have read some stuff about full size SUV's being phased out with in the next 5-10 years though. They're talking about taxing them out of exsistence with gass guzzler fees. It'll be nice to see through an intersection with out 4 Excurtions piloted by cell phone weelding soccer moms on the other end.
 

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Scrapyard said:
It's funny, I'm noticing the 70's early 80's happening all over again. Except station wagons are becoming SUV's and the big family sedan is become a midsize comuter car. I'm glad to see RWD coming back though. It's been sorley missed. I have read some stuff about full size SUV's being phased out with in the next 5-10 years though. They're talking about taxing them out of exsistence with gass guzzler fees. It'll be nice to see through an intersection with out 4 Excurtions piloted by cell phone weelding soccer moms on the other end.
LOL. Not to mentiom soccor moms that tailgate, not realizing how much their vehicle weighs while adjusting the baby's restrainer in the back seat!! A lot of people seem to think they can stop like a car!!

I've always liked V8's but it just goes to show you there cannot be a gas shortage, or one anytime soon.
 

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Ralph said:
LOL. Not to mentiom soccor moms that tailgate, not realizing how much their vehicle weighs while adjusting the baby's restrainer in the back seat!! A lot of people seem to think they can stop like a car!!

I've always liked V8's but it just goes to show you there cannot be a gas shortage, or one anytime soon.
Off topic:
Man, I was cruizen home the other nite with this fool in some Jap mini me SUV behind me. This cat was, no lie, 2 feet off my bumper. If I sneezed he would have rear ended me. And I'm do'n like 40 in a 35 on a 2 lane road. It's middel of rush hour, there's school buses and nuns in front of us. Absolutley no place for this dude to go. He gets a gap between me and the guy in the next lane and goes around me doing 55 only to slam on the breaks because there's a guy 5 feet in front of him. It's like, dude, do ya gota crap really bad or something, because that I'll understand. Some people need to be publicly beaten bouncer: .
 

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Scrapyard said:
Off topic:
Man, I was cruizen home the other nite with this fool in some Jap mini me SUV behind me. This cat was, no lie, 2 feet off my bumper. If I sneezed he would have rear ended me. And I'm do'n like 40 in a 35 on a 2 lane road. It's middel of rush hour, there's school buses and nuns in front of us. Absolutley no place for this dude to go. He gets a gap between me and the guy in the next lane and goes around me doing 55 only to slam on the breaks because there's a guy 5 feet in front of him. It's like, dude, do ya gota crap really bad or something, because that I'll understand. Some people need to be publicly beaten bouncer: .
I slow down sometimes when people are tailgating. This seems to drive them nuts, which makes me feel good. :D Basically, I think they are just in a rush, so they try to get you in a rush and out of their way, so try the slowing down thing, it gets your heart pumping man! (fight or flight response)
 
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