The global car is here. And it's not a car.
It's the small crossover, and it's quickly cementing its place as the super vehicle for the global auto market, with a size and shape that checks more boxes in more regions than any other.
These vehicles are small enough for Europeans, tall enough for Americans, rugged enough for the developing world. They work for budget-minded 20-somethings and empty nesters. They come in luxury packages (Mercedes GLA) or dressed down (Chevy Trax). They can be geared for the trail (Jeep Renegade) or the track (Porsche Macan).
And for automakers, the surging popularity of the crossover body style, particularly among Americans, is clearing a path to big profits from sales of small vehicles. Those platforms no longer are reserved for econoboxes sold as a fuel-efficiency play with thin or nonexistent margins. Instead, they're being topped in stylish sheet metal for relatively little extra cost and billed as "SUVs," often padding incremental profit by $3,500.
During the past 15 years, automakers weaned U.S. buyers from bigger, truck-based SUVs with compact crossovers (think the Honda CR-V or Ford Escape). Now, they're chasing that success farther down the scale, convincing Americans that they can get all that functionality -- versatile storage, a commanding view of the road, all-wheel drive -- in an even smaller, more affordable package.