2012 Chevrolet Equinox

The market share for SUVs is now larger than ever

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Surprise, surprise. For those who thought the sport utility vehicle was down and out, think again. The SUV now holds more market share than it ever has before - even more than it did during the 1990s "SUV Craze."

In the 1990s, about one in five vehicles sold in America was an SUV. During that supposed height of the "SUV Craze," sport utilities were huge truck-based vehicles that sucked gasoline almost as fast as you could pump it in.

Today, market data shows that SUVs are one of every three vehicles sold in the U.S., surpassing the "craze" and becoming the most ubiquitous vehicle on American roads. The SUV is thriving for several reasons, not the least of which is their continued evolution as consumer interests change.

Early SUVs were nothing more than trucks with a permanent bed cover on them and some seats added to usefully use that extra space. Eventually, the SUV became a truck-based van with emphasis on towing and off-road capability. At the height of their time in the 1990s, they were often some of the most capable "bush" machines being produced, despite rarely being taken off-road by their owners.

Noticing this, carmakers quickly began re-thinking the sport utility, doing what businesses in a free market do best: learning what consumers wanted and delivering it. Despite the bad reputation the SUV had as a symbol of American excess and fuel consumption, they were still selling as fast as manufacturers could produce them. It didn't take long to learn what it was about SUVs that consumers liked most and what was considered their down-sides.

In the early 2000s, SUV sales began to slump and market share was being lost as consumers looked for more fuel efficient options. Automakers, though, knew what consumers wanted and why and were quickly re-tooling the sport utility to match.

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