AutoTrader study points to “seismic shift” from sedans to larger vehicles

A recent study by points to a “seismic shift” from traditional sedans in favour of larger crossovers, SUVs, and trucks in recent years.

The study found that more Canadian consumers are looking to upsize their vehicle, wanting more cargo space, better seating comfort, and additional seating, among other reasons. The shift is reflective of a trend that has been growing in recent years, according to the company.

“Our research, which affirms a growing desire for Canadians to get into larger vehicles, aligns with SUV and pickup truck sales that have been gaining pace across North America for the past five years—with no signs of slowing down,” said Lilian Lau, VP of Marketing, TRADER Corporation.

For consumers who intend to buy a vehicle within the next two years, 30%—almost a third of current vehicle owners—said they want to upgrade to a larger vehicle from their current car. Among those who plan to do this, 48% plan to upsize to a SUV, while another 32% will pivot to a truck.

The company said some industry experts believe drivers feel safer with an SUV or truck rather than a car, while growing families and more activities are among the other reasons, as SUVs and trucks offer more practicality and versatility. Some also enjoy the status.

“According to the study, SUVs have the highest overall purchase consideration (42%) among all respondents, with 64% of current SUV owners indicating they still plan to buy an SUV for their next vehicle, and 33% of car owners say they intend to switch to an SUV,” said the company.

For consumers who anticipate buying an SUV as their next vehicle, 62% said they will buy a two-row SUV, 26% said they will buy a three-row SUV, and 12% plan to buy a sub-compact SUV.

More than 90% of consumers that plan to buy a vehicle said the vehicle body type is an important consideration in their overall buying decision, with 42% saying it is “very important” and 50% noting it is “important.”

Thirty-seven per cent already made up their mind about what they want, whereas 49% have a good idea but are open to change. Truck owners are more likely to have made up their mind (46%), versus first-time buyers who have a greater potential to be open to change (61%).

“Vehicle size is also an important consideration for the vast majority (85%) of prospective buyers,” said TRADER. “Interestingly, half of buyers (51%) have decided on the vehicle size they want to buy, but say they are open to changing their minds. One third of buyers claim they have made up their mind and will not change their decision.”

As we near the winter months, the company notes that taking a data-led view to develop a “strong, upsize-focused marketing message” along with offers associated with the messaging, can be very effective.

Price, they say, is a major deterrent for respondents—with 50% seeing larger vehicles are more expensive and offering less fuel efficiency (48%) than smaller cars. Consumers also see larger cars as better suited for families (45%), with the extra space not being worth the added difficulty when it comes to maneuvering tight spaces (27%). They also see larger cars as less environmentally friendly (28%).

Additionally, 41% of respondents feel safer in a larger vehicle, which they view as more convenient (35%) and offering a better resale value (15%).

“With more consumers looking for larger vehicles, now is a great time for dealers to take a look at their current inventory and put any SUV or trucks front and centre on their lots to entice shoppers,” said Lau.

The online study was conducted in July 2021 among 1,043 Canadians car shoppers.

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