What's with all the big cars? SUV sales continue to dominate the market

What's with all the big cars? SUV sales continue to dominate the market

25 Jul

By Gwyn Fennell

Cast your mind back. Remember when SUVs first started to become mainstream? Ten or so years ago, sport utility vehicles were an automotive sideshow, with the sector taking up around 12 per cent of the overall market share.

Initially, motorists weren't all that interested in them, but soon enough something began to stir. And now, in 2019, SUVs take up almost a third of the overall car market globally, with nearly 30 million sold in 2018 – far more than any other category of vehicle.

The rise and rise of the SUV has had a real impact on the international car market, as well as on many businesses and the wider world. These large, often all-wheel-driven five or seven-seater vehicles sit high up on the road, and are known for their comfort, space and safety. Importantly for automotive manufacturers, SUVs are proven to particularly appeal to women buyers – an increasingly vital segment, with female car ownership having risen more than 20 per cent in the UK over the past ten years.

Can this trend really continue?

Whether or not increased SUV uptake is really sustainable is open to debate. These vehicles are often expensive to initially buy, as well as being costlier to maintain than smaller, simpler vehicles in the long term. They also require significantly greater resources and much more energy to build in the first place. And SUVs don’t make for a great platform when it comes to electrification, a thing all car makers – and governments – have their eyes on at the moment.

In reality, the overwhelming majority of SUV owners don't actually need a vehicle of this size, but some are swayed by the perceived status symbol of owning one. These vehicles – once dubbed by environmentalists as ‘Chelsea Tractors’ following their uptake by many of the wealthy of west London – are in the main designed and engineered to be robust and effective off-road driving machines. However, it’s widely accepted that most vehicles are rarely – if ever – used in this way.


Continental provide leading tyres for SUVs

Over the last ten years, Continental has developed an unrivalled selection of specialist premium tyres for SUVs. Engineered to be comfortable and capable, these tyres provide outstanding grip on all surfaces and in all manner of conditions. They’re also manufactured with superior rolling resistance, ensuring much better fuel efficiency. Unsurprisingly, demand for these tyres has grown alongside the uptake of SUVs, and many of these vehicles leave the factory fitted with Continental original equipment (OE).

Something to remember. Some drivers new to owning an SUV can be caught out when it comes to buying replacement tyres. Like the cars themselves, SUV tyres are larger and wider and are therefore more expensive than the tyres you'd find on a normal car. Continental tyres are produced to complement the vehicle they are fitted to, giving optimum levels of safety and performance. Therefore, if you already have Continental OE fitted, a like-for-like change makes sense.

This is crucial with SUVs since heavier and more robust cars are demanding on tyres, and only perform at their best with the correct tyres fitted. Continental’s latest tyre for SUVs is their superb CrossContact™ ATR, which allows drivers to own the road – no matter what the terrain.


SUVs and the future

Many car makers are betting that SUV sales will continue to rise long into the 2020s. This is by no means guaranteed, since increasingly stricter emissions testing and the implementation of more environmentally friendly transport solutions are taking place, or planned to, around the world. We’re now also beginning to see more high-performance SUVs being produced, adding to the demands placed on tyres.

Furthermore, while zero-emission electric SUVs (that need to carry heavy batteries on board) are presenting new challenges to tyre engineers, the team at Continental are confident that their leading research and development will ultimately lead to the creation of next generation electric vehicle SUV tyres.

For the time being, it seems that SUVs are here to stay. Whether or not that’s good for the world at large is dabatable. As it stands, it looks like many of the car buying public prefer to choose the perceived status and prestige of SUVs over the more ecologically-friendly, smaller vehicles currently on the market. Whether this is sustainable remains to be seen.

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