2011 Sales Recap: The SUV is Dead, Long Live the Crossover

By Jacob Brown | January 05, 2012
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But it was really only that bad if you happen to be selling a truck-based SUV. Although some companies had growth in demand for the off-roaders, the available selection for such vehicles is dwindling, and it will be getting smaller next year. For every other company, it was a sign of the times—times of higher gas prices and more discerning customers than ever, with a greater selection of high-riding soft-roaders and plenty of sales around the industry overall. In 2011, soccer moms didn't buy the biggest, baddest SUVs with the urgency they used to. If they didn't need to tow 8000-pound boats, they generally stuck with crossovers, the car-based SUV lookalikes. More so, they gravitated toward replacements for minivan duty. If it could carry seven passengers in relative comfort, consider it sold. Honda and Toyota took the greatest losses in crossover sales, largely because they couldn't keep up with demand. Natural disasters have a tendency to do that. Nissan's truck-based Xterra and Armada weren't far behind, but its Infiniti EX and FX crossovers also took solid sales hits. Surprisingly, however, the full-size, truck-based QX picked up 12.7 percent of sales over last year, allowing Infiniti to amass 13,428 new owners in 2011 for its $60,000 to $75,000 SUV. Here are a few more notable ups and downs recorded throughout the 2011 model year: Chrysler's Winners
  • The Jeep brand went Rambo on the industry this year with a 41 percent sales gain. Yes, at 419,349 vehicles sold, the brand nearly doubled its last-year sales.
  • Dodge's Nitro and Durango both sold plenty more than last year's figures. It's just a shame that the Nitro isn't close to being as good as its bigger brother.
Honda's Losers
  • We'll give the benefit of the doubt to Honda for having an off year, but the five-door crossover coupe is a segment we feel ought to be killed with fire. See also: The Honda Crosstour and Acura ZDX, which both posted massive double-digit declines beyond any of the automaker's other vehicles.
Ford's Winners
  • Every crossover and SUV in its lineup...
Ford's Loser
  • ...except for the Ford Flex, which went from retro-chic family hauler to irrelevant in a matter of hours after replacing the Ford Taurus X in 2009.
General Motors' Winners
  • Surprisingly, the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and all of GM's other full-size SUVs proved the vehicle type isn't dead yet.
  • The midsize GMC Terrain increased its sales 37.9 percent in 2011. That's almost 23,000 vehicles, or 83,179 for 2011 in total.
Toyota's Winner
  • Only the Highlander came out unscathed from the earthquake disaster that disrupted the vehicle's production.
Toyota's Loser
  • Giving Toyota the benefit of the doubt, the RAV4 was the off more than 22 percent in 2011, more than most other Toyotas. Maybe it's time for Toyota to think about replacing its stalwart crossover.
Otherwise, no news appeared to be good news, as the automakers mostly increased their sales throughout the industry as they topped 12.8 million vehicles nationwide and because crawling out of the Great Recession's seriously deep rut.