The automotive market in the USA is one of the most lucrative in the world, but not everyone gets an equal slice of the pie. Not every car is created equal, and some are just downright awful. So what makes models like the Ford F-150 or the Toyota RAV4 so successful? Surely it is not mere national pride that sees the three biggest slices of pie go to American companies Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram. There must be something they know that international competitors like Mercedes-Benz, Fiat, Kia, and Volvo don’t know. So, it only seems logical to look at the top-sellers in each segment to see what makes this market tick.
The SUV world order
Crossover and SUV body styles are relatively new in the motoring world, and yet they are proving to be among the most popular of all. This is evidenced by the massive number of Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V units sold over the last year – over 300,000 combined. Of course, even together, these don’t come close to matching the Ford F-Series line of pickups, but we’ll leave the proverbial best for last. Looking at these two marques, what do they do right that has earned this such acclaim?
It is wise to never underestimate a small dog, and the compact crossovers are very much the same. Their bark may not be overly impressive, with most powered by low-displacement turbo-charged engines, but their bite is another matter. Thanks to their small size and low weight, they can actually be quite fun to drive while still doing duty as a family hauler or errand-runner around town.
The RAV4 is the slightly better seller in this category. Available in three different configurations, it is a compact SUV that is deceptively spacious and practical. The latest iteration is the Prime, a plug-in hybrid that joins the gas-fed and mild-hybrid options. All three offer excellent fuel economy for the segments, but it is the PHEV that returns the best figures of 40/36/38 mpg. Inside, there is more than enough room for five, with a decent amount of legroom for rear-seat passengers. However, if you want the best cargo capacity, the standard RAV4 is your best bet, since the battery on the hybrids eats a few cubic feet.
Sedans aren’t extinct just yet
While it is true that the more practical high-rider is quickly replacing the sedan and coupe, these classic styles are not ready to give in without a fight. The most impressive performance vehicles still fall firmly into this category, but these premium articles won’t shy up on a list such as this. Rather, they usually populate a compendium of the most expensive vehicles in the world.
On the more affordable end of the spectrum in this category, it is the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry that stand out. The base model of each is similarly priced at around $20,000 – $25,000 MSRP, but they deviate quite a bit after that. The Camry markets itself as more of a family car, with superb safety ratings and a spacious interior, while the Civic is more of a fun bachelor(ette) ride. It has quite a bit of fancy tech if you are willing to spend a little extra, and the available 174-hp turbocharged engine gives it some compelling driving dynamics. The Civic is also offered in a variety of forms including a hatchback, coupe, and high-performance model.
Picking up the pace
Despite some good showings from other categories, it is the pickup truck that still dominates sales in the USA. These rugged workers abound, both out in the countryside and the busy streets of town and cities alike. But what exactly makes them so darn desirable? A quick look at the pack leader, with more than 100,000 units sold above and beyond the runner-ups, should give you some idea of what makes the pickup so popular.
The Ford F-Series has been America’s sweetheart for some time now. Available in a host of configurations, from the F-150 through to the F-450 Super Duty, it can be further customized with a variety of cabin and cargo bed combinations, as well as powertrain options. However, it is seldom just horsepower that matters here, with several high-torque turbodiesel power plants offering the best performance.
It is the uncanny ability of these vehicles to fit just about any role that makes them so well suited to the dynamic market of the US. In town, they can be decked out with high-tech cabs with room for five and modern comfort features to keep the whole family safe. On job sites, a smaller cab with a longer cargo bed and a powerful engine make for a dependable worker. And even off-road, these rides excel, with several purpose build variants, such as the F-150 Raptor. In a land comprised of diverse, unique individuals who each want something different from their vehicle, it comes as little surprise that high customization and a dependable reputation form the foundation for a successful brand.