Small SUVs stall in Aus

Growth in Australia’s small SUV segment appears to have stalled.

The Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport

Sales of small SUVs below $42,000 grew by 23.8 per cent last year, but that’s fallen to just 2.9 per cent this year – below the average industry growth rate of 3.8 per cent.

Graeme Whickman, chief executive and president of Ford Australia, says the segment is “pretty stagnant”. He attributes the growth this year to pent-up demand for Mazda’s CX-3, which saw sales of the model rise by 130 per cent from last year.

But he doesn’t think the segment has grown. “I think the energy in that segment has abated a little bit and people are looking to different derivatives.”

“Right now we have started to see what I would call small SUVs – the likes of (Toyota) RAV4s and (Ford) Kugas – actually descending in price at the very same time.

“They are starting to sit on top of some of those mini utilities (SUVs) and customers are starting to look at those and go ‘should I buy something down here, should I buy a CX-3 or should I buy a CX-5 or the equivalent in each across each of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)’.

“You can get a pretty well specified small SUV these days for not a lot of money.”

Ford Australia decided not to import a facelifted version of the EcoSport which is headed for Europe, sticking with the current version launched in 2013. However, Whickman says that despite having regular volume sales, projections of the mini utility vehicle haven’t grown as much as expected.

“If you look at the numbers, you are actually seeing what I call the medium traditional and medium crossover (vehicles) getting some of the larger gains, about 15-ish per cent.

“We are seeing some of the gains in our numbers there, whereas the mini utilities, the numbers haven’t grown as quick as estimated.”

Sales of Ford’s mid-sized Kuga are up 19.2 per cent this year, while sales of medium SUVs costing up to $63,000 are up by 14.2 per cent this year.