Love for SUVs and pickups surge to record high

Key Points
  • A new study finds that drivers who own an SUV or crossover utility vehicle are very likely to buy another one.
  • The loyalty rate is unusually high, above 60 percent, IHS Markit says.
  • For pickups, the loyalty rate is over 50 percent.
A Toyota Land Cruiser 200 sports utility vehicle (SUV) and a Toyota Hilux pickup truck sit on display.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Once you drive an SUV, the odds are pretty good the next vehicle you buy will be an SUV.

A new study by IHS Markit found that two-thirds of the owners of SUVs and CUVs (crossover utility vehicles) who bought another vehicle between January and April in the years since 2012 made the next purchase an SUV or crossover.

"It is extremely rare to see a loyalty rate above 60 percent, let alone close to 70 percent, which is what we have with SUVs and crossovers right now," said Tom Libby, manager of automotive loyalty and industry analysis at IHS Markit.

The analysis of new vehicle registrations for the first four months of the year since 2012 shows steady and solid growth in loyalty for SUVs and pickups. While 66 percent of those returning to the market for an SUV or crossover already own a utility vehicle, the loyalty rate is over 50 percent of pickup buyers. It's the highest loyalty rate IHS Markit has ever registered for pickup trucks.

Why the growing love for these bigger models? Some of it is because there are more SUV and pickup models for buyers to choose. Libby also thinks there may be a snowball effect leading more people to buy an SUV.

"We see these SUVs and crossovers all over the place, so many buyers may be saying, 'Why don't we buy that instead of a car?'" he said.

Increasingly, sedan owners are giving up on buying another car. In fact, the 48.6 percent loyalty rate for sedans is the first time more than half of the sedan buyers returning to the market have decided not buy another sedan.

"Cars are not going away, they are not dead," said Libby. "But cars have definitely lost their appeal to SUVs and crossovers."

The shift in tastes for new vehicles is not surprising given the sales numbers for this year. According to the research firm AutoData, car sales are down 11.4 percent this year, while SUV sales are up 7 percent.