As expected, April auto sales left a lot to be desired. Overall, they were lackluster. But if you look within the numbers, one thing is clear: CUV (crossover utility vehicle) sales continue to grow -- not surprising when you consider that buyers still want the versatility to haul people and stuff. The CUVs hitting the market allow us to do that, while getting slightly better gas mileage and giving a better ride than we get with traditional SUVs.
This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. The Japanese automakers were the first ones to realize suburban America wants a utility vehicle that drives like a car. Now that the Big Three are getting on board with new models like the Ford Edge, expect sales of "cute utes" to continue. In fact, Ford speeding up development of its Ford Flex (scheduled to come out next year) shows the automaker wants to capture this demand as quickly as possible, while its traditional SUVs -- the Explorer most notably -- continue to struggle.
Some of this can be attributed to the realization by many buyers that higher gas prices are here for the foreseeable future. At $2.98 a gallon here in Chicago, I can see why some SUV owners are tired of paying $30-50 to fill up their big rig, especially if it's a family that is using a SUV to drive around the suburbs primarily. If you don't need the off-road capability of an SUV, why drive a heavier, less fuel-efficient vehicle?
The CUV is coming strong. Pile in; at least the mileage is likely to be better.
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com