It doesn't seem that long ago that a lot of us were driving station wagons. It looks to many like we have slowly migrated back into three-row vehicles.
Thanks to Ford, last week I was able to assess the global impact of SUVs and crossovers. It sure seems like they are the growth segments in vehicles, regardless of the continent.
They may be smaller and a lot more fuel efficient or still as big as the old Ford Country Squire station wagon.
Ford still finds a market for the Expedition, and Chevrolet has the mainstay Suburban. Both have had loyal fans for decades.
Meanwhile, around the globe customers have discovered the practicality and efficiency of smaller two- and three-row vehicles known as crossovers. It is impressive how efficient those vehicles are for hauling people while achieving high mileage.
For a lot of people in the BRIC nations -- Brazil, Russia, India and China --those vehicles hit the sweet spot.
They are the industry's real growth engines around the world.
It's interesting to see the lack of success of the entry-level vehicle made for the Indian market. The Tata Nano has not been accepted by consumers in India, probably because it is so bare-bones basic. Although it was intended to be an entry-level vehicle that for many Indians could replace a motorcycle, there has not been a groundswell of interest.
When Ford and General Motors tried to do the same thing in Southeast Asia and introduced basic pickup trucks for use in undeveloped countries, they were flops because humans want more than just basic transportation.
Car companies often forget that customers can buy used cars with a lot more comfort and prestige than those basic vehicles.
The growth of the crossover segment shows that the industry has hit a home run with a selection of vehicles for different parts of the world.
First it was the woody, followed by the steel station wagon covered with faux wood. Then my friend Hal Sperlich hit a grand-slam home run when Chrysler introduced the minivan, now being replaced by smaller, fuel-efficient crossovers.
The market changes, and so do the customers and the vehicles. It never ceases to amaze me.