Sport utility vehicles are having more than a moment. Accounting for more than half of all new U.S. vehicle sales, Americans’ appetite for SUVs have steered automakers into an arms race to produce more and more of them, in increasing numbers of niches. It is no coincidence that Ford and Volkswagen will enter the long-range EV market with compact SUVs rather than conventional passenger sedans. Volkswagen predicts this trend is unlikely to end, barring a severe economic shock
In a survey 1 polling 1,000 U.S. SUV drivers, Volkswagen found that nine out of every 10 current SUV owners (87 percent) plan to stick with the vehicles for life, citing safety and comfort as two key features driving their SUV purchases. Ninety-four percent also agreed that they feel more confident on the road overall when driving an SUV— a big driver in their purchasing decisions.
“This survey confirms that our current portfolio of SUVs aligns with what consumers are prioritizing here in the U.S.,” said Hein Schafer, Senior Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy for Volkswagen of America, Inc. “All of our SUVs rank high on independent measures of comfort, safety and passenger space within their classes, and we’re focused on those priorities as we develop new entries like our upcoming compact SUV that will slot in below the Tiguan.”
In addition to the rise in public SUV sentiment, the survey uncovered two additional trends with major implications for the next generation of automotive consumers:
Gen Z and Millennial Drivers’ most valued features aren’t design or performance, but safety
For Gen Z and young Millennial SUV drivers (ages 18-34), safety ranks first as the most important feature of their SUVs. The Volkswagen survey found that 43 percent of younger SUV drivers are more likely than other generations to value their SUV’s handling on rough roads and overall safety.
Comparatively, 76 percent of SUV owners over 55 years old value comfortable seating foremost among vehicle features.
Families are foregoing living room discussions for SUV dialogues
The survey also found that the location for important family discussions has literally hit the road. Rather than resorting to the living room or dining room table, more than eight in 10 parents say they are having important family discussions in their SUVs, creating a new space for family time, whether they are on the way to school or on a family road trip.
Ninety percent of parents who took the survey agreed that they expect to continue to own an SUV from now on and use their SUV as a place for family discussions. Along that same vein, the survey found that SUV owners with a third row are more likely to have family discussions take place in their SUV (75 percent vs. 60 percent of owners without a third row), while younger SUV owners (18-34 and 35-54) and parents are more likely to use their third row on a daily basis.
“As we look to the future of Volkswagen, and the direction we are mapping out for our lineup, we understand that appetites for certain capabilities of SUVs evolve. This includes EV options in the SUV market,” said Schafer. “Taking into account the features that we know consumers are looking for in upcoming models, we’re eager to bring a price-conscious, thoughtfully-designed, and long-range electric SUV to the U.S. market in the near future.”