The crossover vehicle -- essentially an SUV built on a car chassis -- began its ascendance in the early 2000s and is now the dominant family automobile, according to new research. The category outsold minivans 2.7 million to 472,000 last year, and the top-selling crossover, the Honda CR-V
, outsells the most popular minivan, the Dodge Caravan
, by more than two to one, according to information compiled by Autodata for Forbes
. A recent study
by Truecar.com showed that five of the 10 most popular cars with women are crossovers.
Why have crossovers ousted minivans? Aesthetics are a big factor, but they're not the only one. Here are the top five reasons for crossover popularity.
1. Japanese automakers have aggressively pushed crossovers, starting with the Toyota RAV4
, which launched in Japan and Europe in 1994 and North America two years later. The Lexus RX
followed soon after, along with the Honda CR-V. This effort helped crossover sales grow from just 8,017 in 1995 to more than 1 million by 2001.
2. Crossovers are almost as comfortable as minivans, but they're much sportier. Drivers lose only about 10 percent of the comfort of a minivan to get an automobile that looks and handles more like an SUV. At the same time, the ride is often far cushier than traditional body-on-frame SUVs.
3. Crossovers don't have sliding doors. The kiss of death for the minivan might be the sliding door, which instantly identifies it as a family car. "Sliding doors carry a stigma," Derrick Kuzak, Ford
's vice president of global product development, said
back in 2010 before the company re-released the C-Max
minivan (sans a sliding door). Crossovers, by contrast, look more like SUVs -- a category that appeals to younger and older drivers as well. "[The crossover] might be driven by anyone, from singletons to senior citizens," writes Micheline Maynard of Forbes.
4. They come in many shapes and sizes. Whereas the minivan really has only one profile, crossovers can be diminutive (think MINI Countryman
), capacious (Cadillac SRX
) or somewhere in between (Toyota Venza
). This, too, broadens its appeal among drivers.
5. High-end automakers got in on the crossover game, expanding the available offerings to those who want to spend more for luxury. BMW
all make crossovers, and Infiniti
is working on one for 2013. This has helped expand their reach to luxury automobile enthusiasts. Not so, minivans: Dodge
dominate that category.