In today's U.S. light-vehicle market it's a given that consumers are abandoning their big and mid-sized SUVs by the side of the road and scurrying to get into sport wagons, a.k.a. crossover vehicles, which generally have better fuel economy.
The way the Power Information Network figures it, car-based crossover SUVs accounted for 46.1 percent of all SUV sales in the first nine months of the year. That's about triple the 16.5 percent share they had during the corresponding period last year.
More significantly, the Automotive News Data Center says sport wagons accounted for 20.5 percent of light-truck sales this year through September. That's up 2.6 percentage points from the same period last year. During the first nine months, truck-based SUVs made up 27.9 percent of light-truck sales, down 3.7 percentage points from a year earlier.
But might there be some buyer's regret?
A new study by the Power Information Network, which is a division of J.D. Power and Associates, says the rugged functionality found in real SUVs is still important to consumers. Many of those in the market for a real SUV consider the crossovers too wimpy. Those looking for a more fuel-efficient vehicle generally want as much good, old functionality as they can get.
That makes perfect sense, doesn't it?
The study also slices and dices the crossover segment based on which vehicles consumers think are stylish, modern and/or appealing, providing rationale for why some are selling and some aren't.
In a corollary, CNW Marketing Research Inc. reports that most of the contraction in sales of full-sized pickups is among those buyers who like pickups because of their macho appearance rather than those who buy them for their rugged functionality.
Hey, that makes sense too.
CNW breaks full-sized-pickup purchasers into five types: appearance, contractor, farmer/rancher, tow vehicle and fleet. This year appearance buyers account for 21.7 percent of sales vs. 24.8 percent last year. CNW says the peak year for appearance buyers was 2001 when they grabbed 28.1 percent of the segment.
CNW postulates that buyers of Japanese-brand full-sized pickups are more likely to be appearance buyers rather than rugged functionality buyers.
That means the downside slope for Chevy, Ford and Dodge may not be as steep as some imagine, unless the rugged functionality of Nissan's Titan and the soon-to-be-Texas-built Toyota Tundra can entice more real workers.
Maybe I'll keep an eye on the parking lot at the local Farm & Fleet store.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at