The North American International Auto Show or Detroit Auto Show has created a lot of buzz in the industry over the last week. We have seen the debuts of some neat cars like the Hyundai Veloster and heard some interesting announcements like the small car and electrification plan from The Ford Motor Company. However, a report today in USA Today indicates that all of the hype over small cars is just that—hype. According to one industry analyst the small cars segment isn’t set to grow as much as other segments because consumers don’t really want small cars. Of course, we are a little biased here at because we happen to think that some little cars can run circles around other larger vehicles on the road. That said, we thought we better look into this a little more.

As we mentioned, USA Today talked to Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive about the small car segment and what Lindland sees as the growing crossover utility vehicle (CUV) market. Now if you look at the automotive press, it seems like small cars must be what consumers are clamoring for—we have seen the reintroduction of the Ford Fiesta, newly introduced Chevrolet Sonic (taking over for the Aveo in 2011), introduction of the Scion iQ and the all-new Ford Focus and Focus Electric. Yes, it would make you think the small car segment is booming, but according to Lindland and USA Today the segment “isn’t as vibrant as it may seem.”

The gist is this; in 2007 the small car and CUV sales were almost identical with a slight favor to the small car market. However, in 2010 the CUV market sold some .6 million more cars with a market share of 21.2%. This compares to the 16.4% market share that the small car segment captured in 2010. What does this mean? Lindland says that consumers are after crossovers. We could see that as being the case with our most recent report on the 2011 Nissan Juke sport crossover catching the attention of the 20-something market. However, the jury is still out. The Nissan Leaf is a small car and so is the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius and Ford Focus (in all the variants). In the U.S. the small car might not rule the school, but in Europe small cars aren’t a fade, they are a necessity. This is why Ford might have an edge in their design and production by going to a global design model. That means if they sell more in Europe it might not impact them as much if they don’t sell as many of the same car in the U.S. We all know how well the Toytoa Prius sells world wide, so I doubt it will become a full-size or CUV anytime soon.

Bottom line—the small car market has never been a blockbuster in America. However, gas prices are starting to elevate again, highline features are changing the perception of what once would have been called an “econo-box” and most of all manufacturers are pushing the small car. The question is, will Americans be swayed or will the CUV be come the SUV of this generation? Stay tuned as we watch this particular pendulum swing. thinks the small car market will continue to grow—but as we said we might be biased. 


[Source: USA Today]