SUV sales are alive and well and are continuing to post big numbers. But sales aren't rising as fast as in the early days of the SUV phenomenon.
And the focus has changed. The original truck-based SUVs no longer are the market darlings. That role has been assumed by the car-based nameplates that become more numerous almost daily. They offer all-wheel drive, either standard or optional.
Automotive News calls them sport wagons. Some analysts refer to them as "crossovers," while others say they are the station wagons of the early 21st century.
But whatever you call them, 20 brands offer them. Twenty-four nameplates are currently vying for sales, and the Ford Freestyle and Mercury Mariner will join the segment next month. In 1999, there were five sport wagon nameplates.
Sales of sport wagons totaled 981,646 in the first seven months of this year, up 18.5 percent from the year-ago period. July sales of 159,206 were up 16.3 percent from July 2003.
Sport wagons pushed SUV sales to 2,665,894 through July. That figure is 50 percent as high as the sales of pickups and three times as high as the sales of vans and minivans.
The SUV total was 7.7 percent higher than last year. Sales of all cars and light trucks were up 2.3 percent through July.
Four weeks ago, Automotive News reported a decline in the prices of large used SUVs. That dip didn't hurt sales of new models in July. Deliveries rose 4.8 percent compared with July 2003 and were up 3.2 percent through July.