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The Warsaw Voice » Society » December 30, 2010
SPORTS UTILITY VEHICLES
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Automotive Objects of Desire
December 30, 2010   
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Attractive looks, a functional interior, and four-wheel drive—these are the main reasons why sports utility vehicles (SUV) have become so popular and desired.

The SUV sector is among the fastest growing on the Polish automotive market. These multifunction vehicles were a massive sales hit last year. According to Samar, a company that monitors the Polish car market, in 2008 nearly 23,000 SUVs were sold in Poland. In 2009, that number grew to 27,196, marking an increase of over 16 percent. Preliminary data show that a new record in SUV sales can be expected in 2010. In the first three quarters of the year, nearly 29,000 lightweight compact SUVs were sold. That figure does not include vehicles such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes ML, which are also classified as SUVs.

What makes SUVs so popular? The main reasons are their appearance, road handling, a spacious and functional interior, an affordable price tag, and a huge secondhand market.

In recent years, designers have made every effort to come up with eye-pleasing SUV bodies that resemble those of all-terrain vehicles, with large and functional interiors like those found in vans. This may be a two-for-the-price-of-one kind of arrangement, especially as SUVs come with four-wheel drive, which makes them a highly competitive and appealing option for anyone who has ever driven a car on a dirt road or on a wet or slippery surface. Four-wheel drive improves safety as well as road handling, and that is an important factor for a growing number of buyers.

The price is another reason to buy a SUV. A few years ago, SUVs cost around zl.20,000 more than popular mid-range sedans such as the Volkswagen Passat or Toyota Avensis. By now, that difference has dropped to a few thousand zlotys, with nearly no price difference in the case of sedans with an extensive range of extras. This explains why many customers are attracted by the added functionality, especially in a situation where there are many secondhand SUVs for sale. Nearly all manufacturers offer SUVs certified as commercial vehicles, which makes the buyer eligible for a VAT refund. Last year alone, over 1,000 secondhand Jeeps and 2,000 Land Rovers were brought into Poland.

Nearly all automakers offer at least one SUV model. On the Polish market, Japanese SUVs are the unquestionable leaders, controlling over half the market. Top sellers include Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Honda. The most popular models include the Toyota Rav 4, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Honda CR-V and the no. 1 in sales—Mitsubishi Outlander. The Jeep is the most popular American brand, while the most popular European SUV brands include Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Each carmaker wants to grab a piece of the SUV pie. Some, like Subaru, keep improving their cars (for example, by adding a diesel engine) and every few years unveil new versions of their SUVs, like Subaru with its Forester and Tribeca models. Others, like Peugeot and CitroŽn, use the experience of other producers. For example, Mitsubishi makes the Peugeot 4007 and the CitroŽn C-Crosser, while Peugeot and CitroŽn fit them with their own engines. Audi and Volkswagen are expanding their range to include smaller SUVs in an attempt at unification. That is why the Audi Q5 looks like a smaller version of the Q7, and the Volkswagen Tiguan resembles the Touareg. Even manufacturers of luxury sports cars have reached for a piece of the pie and decided to build their own SUVs. Porsche unveiled the Cayenne and followed up with its smaller sibling, the Cajun, two years later. As a result, competition in this market segment runs high, benefiting customers.
Bartosz GrzybiŮski
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