Why car companies are placing a premium on premium SUVs
2018 Range Rover SV/Autobiography (Land Rover)
Published Tuesday, November 28, 2017 11:58AM EST
As recently as 10 years ago, the luxury SUV segment consisted almost solely of the Range Rover and the Mercedes G-Class, but as 2017 draws to a close, the full-size, fully premium SUV market is now one of the fastest-growing and most competitive of all vehicle segments, particularly in the U.S. And at this year's LA Auto Show, which opens its doors to the public on December 1, it is about to get even more competitive still.
One of the biggest new car reveals at this year's show -- in every sense -- will be the new Range Rover SV/Autobiography. Reputed to provide sumptuous space for up to seven passengers, the company promises that it will set a new benchmark in the luxury SUV segment.
However, in recent years, that benchmark has been moving higher and higher as more car companies join a segment Land Rover used to be able to call its own.
For years, data on both sides of the Atlantic has been plotting consumers' movement away from mass-market sedans, coupés, compact hatchbacks and even minivans towards crossovers and SUVs. However, by the start of 2017, the same behavioral shift had well and truly arrived at the very highest end of the luxury automobile market. Over the course of 2016, for the first time in history, luxury SUVs outsold luxury sedans in the US.
According to Edmunds, SUVs accounted for 55 per cent of the luxury car market in 2016 and by the time 2017 becomes 2018 that market share could well be past 60 per cent.
And as a similar pattern is emerging in China, the world's largest single automotive market, it's little wonder that every major marque, mainstream or premium is rushing to get a piece of the action.
The latest upmarket SUVs from Cadillac and Lincoln have been a quantum leap forward in terms of genuine luxury and sense of occasion as has the latest generation Ford Expedition.
And at this year's LA Auto Show we will also see the North American debut of the new Infiniti QX80 fresh from its global unveiling in Dubai. It boasts three rows of seats and an attention to cabin detail in terms of leathers, woods, stitching and appointments that is clearly inspired by the likes of Range Rover and Bentley.
Lexus, Toyota's luxury arm, is also hyping up a new elongated version of its already popular RX,-the RX 350L. It will boast greater luxury and again, room for seven to travel in luxury. It will be making its global debut in LA, as will Subaru's first ever full-size SUV, the Ascent, a vehicle it hopes can move it further into the premium segment.
But that's just the start. LA may signal the end of the automotive events calendar for the year, but by March of 2018 when the Geneva motor show comes around, the premium full-size SUV market will have swollen even more to accommodate the BMW X7, Audi Q8, a new Mercedes G-Class and last, but by no means least, the first ever Rolls-Royce SUV.