Are SUVs really dying?

Time 4:55 pm, October 14, 2008

086475000_1222857986.jpgTHE SUV sector will always be with us – but it’s set to undergo a major realignment.

‘It will be something akin to that we’re seeing in the housing market,’ says Suzuki’s product manager, Rob Lake. It may crash, but there will still be a sector to emerge at the end.

Instead, rather than dying, the market will go back to its roots, predicts Lake. Focusing on rational models for people with a distinct need for an off-roader. Less gin palace, more working (and affordable) 4×4.

‘People will move out of huge 4x4s, and into smaller ones – or go back into the cars they came from, such as Mercedes estates,’ says Lake.

In contrast, the growth sector will be ‘crossover’ machines, such as the Nissan Qashqai. ‘These models provide a happy medium,’ with lower CO2 figures, more compact dimensions and, vitally, more manageable prices.

Suzuki, he says, is well placed to capitalise on this expected shift. The heavily retail-bought Grand Vitara offers plenty of off-road ability and a considerable price advantage over rivals.

While the SX4 crossover is actually, reveals Lake, a model he studied closely during his previous role at Nissan. He was the man who launched the Qashqai – accepted by the industry as the benchmark for this type of machine. But says inspiration came partly from the underplayed Suzuki…

That’s why dealers can look forward to more communications during the coming months, on strengthening the SX4 sales proposition. It is a model, says Lake, with lots of potential in the current market.

‘Makers with a heavy focus on large 4x4s, with a similar bias towards less-profitable fleet business, are going to struggle,’ he added. Suzuki? ‘It’s tough, but retail is still selling. People who need this type of vehicle will still buy.’

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