Auto buyers gravitating to compact SUVs

(March 31, 2014) WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Whether it's weather-related, the wide range of model options available or low gas prices — or a combination of all three — consumers are buying compact SUVs in increasing numbers, according to an analysis by J.D. Power.

The compact SUV segment has been the most popular segment among U.S. new-vehicle retail buyers so far in 2014, accounting for 17.6 percent of all new-vehicle sales, an increase of 3 percentage points from the first quarter of 2013 when compact SUVs was only the third best-selling vehicle segment, behind compact cars and midsize cars.

This year, however, midsize and compact cars follow compact SUVs in market share, each accounting for 14.9 percent of retail sales.

Compact SUV vehicles come at a price premium, compared with their sedan counterparts. The average transaction price of a compact SUV in March is $25,600, which is $6,200 higher than compact cars and $3,400 higher than midsize cars.

"Part of the success of the compact SUV segment is the large number of new or recently redesigned models it contains," said Thomas King, senior director of the Power Information Network (PIN) from J.D. Power. "In addition, the harsh winter weather has enticed some consumers to move into the crossover SUV market because of their all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive capabilities."

There are 24 compact SUV models on the U.S. market, with nine being all new or redesigned for 2014.