Rapid increases in gasoline prices have not changed consumer preferences when buying cars in the United States. The most recent sales figures show that, despite inflation and economic uncertainty, American motorists continue to buy large vehicles.
According to information provided by JATO Dynamics, SUVs and pickup trucks recorded a new record market share in the first four months of 2022, together accounting for 72.9% of total passenger car sales between January and April. In figures, it is 3.32 million units out of a total of 4.56 million. Across both segments, SUVs are the dominant force by a wide margin, accounting for 53.5% of the share to 19.4% for trucks.
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Together, this is by far the largest share in the world for these vehicles and another example of the uniqueness of the American market. This also explains why electrification is struggling to take off here compared to other regions, such as Europe or China.
The fastest growing segments
In addition to their dominant position, SUVs and pickup trucks have been the market share leaders for the past four years. A year before the pandemic hit global economies, the two segments accounted for 63% of total sales from January to April 2019. Market share in 2020 increased to 67.9% and continued to climb to 70.5% for the same four-month period in 2021. .
In total, the truck/SUV market share increased by 9.9 points between 2019 and 2022. SUVs occupy a prominent place in the group, as the market share in this particular segment has been steadily growing . In 2019, it was 46.1%, rising to 47.5% in 2020 and 52.3% last year. This means that the SUV market share has increased by 7.4 points over these years. Meanwhile, trucks peaked in 2020 at 20.4%, but fell back to 18.2% in 2021. They sit at 19.4% so far in 2022.
Interestingly, the growth matches the decline of sedans surprisingly well. The biggest loser in this period is the sedan, falling from 23.4% in the first quarter of 2019 to just 16.3% this year. In terms of volume, sedans found 1.25 million new customers in 2019 and just 742,000 this year through April.
Tesla, Hyundai and Toyota SUVs are in vogue
Strong sales of the Tesla Model Y are part of the SUV’s growing market share. Since its introduction in 2020, it has become the most popular electric vehicle in the United States, surpassing the Model 3. In fact, the Model Y was the 13th best-selling car until April 2022 and the seventh most purchased SUV .
The Model Y has thus enabled Tesla to increase its market share in the SUV segment from 0.2% in 2019 to 2.7% this year. This is the biggest increase among all brands that sell SUVs. The Tesla brand was followed by Hyundai, up 2.4 points thanks to the Palisade and the latest generation Tucson.
Toyota, on the other hand, took the top spot thanks to the RAV4, the country’s best-selling SUV in 2021, and the Highlander which ranked fifth last year. Until 2022, the Highlander is in third place on the SUV list.
Electric SUVs and pickups are shaping the future
This transition to SUVs and pickup trucks from sedans and hatchbacks will continue for years to come and electrification will spread. Model Y is already joined by the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. Upcoming electric SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox EV, Chrysler Airflow, and more are expected to keep this growth going.
Pick-up side, the Ford F-150 Lightning is already there. The Chevrolet Silverado EV and the first electric Ram are coming soon, not to mention the Tesla Cybertruck. As more electric models become available, will Americans be persuaded to switch or will they stick with internal combustion for as long as possible?
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is the Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.