AM Online

Making money: Carmakers drawn to SUVs

There are 61 car brands operating in the UK and 23 of them now offer an SUV.

The value of the sector is growing fast enough to attract all carmakers. More are preparing to join in.

Last year, registrations of 4x4s and SUVs accounted for 7.7% of the new car market. They were 5% in 2001.

Land Rover’s new Evoque has shown just how fashionable the tall stance and off-road capability can be, and we expect Bentley to be pushing up the prices in the sector within a few years.

VW Group chief executive, Wolfgang Durheimer, has said that his engineers at Bentley in Crewe have started work on the project and suggested that such a car could be on the market by 2014.

Durheimer counts his development of the Cayenne while he worked at Porsche as one of his greatest successes.

By the time he gets his new Bentley design on the road he could well find himself in a face-off with Aston Martin which also feels that a premium sports carmaker should have an off-roader in the catalogue.

Some of the work needed to prepare for a rugged Bentley has already been done by VW. The next Audi Q7 will have a platform suitable for an elaborate luxury car.

Audi also has a V12 diesel engine in the store room ready for an appropriate new application, though there must also be a petrol car in the line-up as so many prime export markets still have inadequate distribution of diesel.

Unsurprisingly, Land Rover has the greatest number of 4x4 offerings in the UK with eight model lines.

All-wheel drive is a way of life for it and the anchor for the brand.

Jeep has an even stronger claim to being a pioneer in the sector and today’s Grand Cherokee is a revelation to drive, both on and off-road.

The days of compromising on-road comfort to get off-road performance are long gone. BMW, a strong player, offers a choice of four 4WD cars which are the X1, X3, X5 and X6.

Some 2WD drive BMWs have the option of conversion to 4WD.

The other players in the long grass split their offerings into three segments: mini, starts with the Kia Soul; compact, starts with the Rav4; Jeeps and Land Rovers occupy the slot described as heavy 4x4.

Sales performances in the three segments are very different: mini segment is driven by retail demand.

Three quarters of the sales go direct to the owner or driver. Thanks to the Juke, Nissan virtually owns the mini SUV sector.

In the year to end September it was running at 61% of the sector and at a thumping eight times up on last year. Fleets have taken to it strongly and have bought three times as many as the retail customer.

Suzuki and Fiat have given way to Nissan.

The Fiat Sedici and Suzuki SX4 have both dropped sales. Kia Soul retail is 35% down on 2010, but the Korean company has been pumping away at fleet to get a net position for the year to end October of 19% up.

Toyota has been having a bad time with its Urban Cruiser, down by a quarter compared with last year.

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  • Irishboy4 - 21/12/2011 05:16

    The last Range Rover sold in the UK without Power Steering was white, it was a three door sold from Chain Garages Alperton, Wembley London, in 1976 by their Sales Manager Paul Chafer. It would appear a lot more than PAS is standard on SUV's now!