The family sedan, a classic slice of Americana dating back to the advent of the automobile, has faded from its former glory and is rapidly being relegated to what might eventually become a niche market. Millions of consumers have made what appears to be a complete shift away from sedans and towards SUV's. And this has happened very rapidly, catching marketers asleep at the wheel.
Just a few years ago there were just as many sedans sold as there were SUV's in the U.S., and now the share of sedans is now below 1/3. SUV's offer far more functionality than most sedans, and engineers have figured out how to make these vehicles safer, more comfortable and more fuel efficient than ever before. Why would anyone want a sedan? Is this truly the end?
Perhaps it is for the present. But with the rapid development and eventual widespread adoption of "driver-less" technology, it is possible that the sedan might make a comeback. Automated transportation could make SUV's obsolete as the need to own a vehicle at all, let alone one that large, could become less prevalent. Some industry observers believe the the auto market might be in decline as new substitutes emerge to meet the transportation needs of an increasingly tech-dependent society. SUV's might be too cumbersome to be practical on roads dominated by robot drivers that transport what are, more often than not, individual passengers to and from work and errands.
This the reign of the SUV could be a short one. But today's SUV's are beginning to look like a cross between the "station wagons" of the distant past and the mini-vans of the not-so-distant past. And so what we think of as an SUV is clearly changing too. And let's not even get into the inevitability of the electric motor replacing the internal combustion engine. The future is very uncertain in this era of almost continuous creative destruction. Ultimately, consumers will have the final say on how they get around, but for now the SUV has a number of advantages over today's version of the sedan. Technology could change the industry yet again, and marketers must engage in continuous market research and keep a finger on the pulse of this dynamic industry.
Discussion: Why do you think SUV's have become so popular in such a short period of time? Do you think that the SUV will still be as popular in the not-so-distant future if more consumers do opt for automated transportation?
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