SUVs Become More Popular in Europe
In the US, the trend began with pickups becoming more than a utility vehicle used by farmers or tradesmen. They actually were cool to drive and by the 80’s consumers in the US were buying king-cab pickups to drive the kids to school.
Then Ford struck gold with the Ranger. Actually, with a variation on the small pickup. From the Ranger, Ford developed the Explorer, an unstable death trap that came with under-inflated tires that could blowout on you at anytime and flip the vehicle since it was essentially an extended cab slapped onto the Ranger pickup chassis that Ford deemed required no further engineering. There were lawsuits, Firestone and Ford had a mudslinging match, etc. etc. This is all old news. But what came of it was good news: an SUV boom that single-handedly saved the US auto industry in 1990’s. Good news for Detroit, that is. Not so much for those pesky environmentalists…and, um, yes, the actual environment itself.
But SUV sales have begun to slump in the US due to higher gas prices and a more elevated environmental consciousness amongst consumers. What is still a growing segment are crossovers, SUV-style vehicles built on passenger car chassis (the kind that don’t so easily rollover and kill you.)
Well, now we have what you can call a trans-Atlantic crossover.In Europe, what used to be called the MPV segment began with the Renault Scenic in 1998. The Scenic is actually a crossover so you can credit the Europeans for that (specifically, the French, even more specifically, Renault). But the MPV segment has evolved into a more SUV-style crossover standard with such models as the BMW X3 and the Toyota RAV4. And now a whole fleet of competing models from European automakers have arrived to match the Asian competition, which remains ahead in the growing SUV segment in Europe. There will be the VW Tiguan, the Citroen Crosser and the Peugeot 4007 to name just a few.
The growth is this segment is occurring despite the fact that the people that don’t like SUVs in Europe (see Check Your Mirrors – Autosavant 12.19.2006) are a lot more vocal (and physical) about their dislike for these vehicles.
Most of these cars will run on small, 2.0 to 2.5 liter engines, usually diesels, which pack the yanking capacity you need in such vehicles and won’t increase CO2 levels too much. Just a little bit.
Which isn’t much, so don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine, really. We’re trending in the right direction. If you’re concerned, you can always buy carbon offsets to make yourself feel better. Because, after all, that’s all the carbon offsets really do, according to this LA Times article. But, isn’t that enough? I mean, you need an SUV, or at least something that looks like one, right? And it’s not like one more SUV is going to move the needle one way or another compared to the millions and millions of them now in the world, right?
So there you have it. Who said trans-Atlantic relations were not going well? Finally, we can all agree that we want to save the environment by driving small/smaller SUVs. Global warming? Don’t even give it a second thought. Case solved!
Alex Ricciuti is a freelance writer and automotive journalist based in Zurich, Switzerland. He writes frequently for Automotive News Europe.
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