These days on St. Joseph streets, it’s the sport-utility vehicle, not the staid and almost defunct passenger car, that has the right of way in terms of automotive preference.
A new study by iSeeCars.com has found that the top five most-driven cars in St. Joseph annually are all SUVs. The rankings, average miles per year and percent driven above the average vehicle are as follows, in descending order, according to the study:
Chevrolet Suburban, 15,896 miles, 22.9 percent above average
GMC Yukon XL, 15,544 miles, 20.2 percent above average
Chevrolet Tahoe, 14,135 miles, 9.2 percent above average
Toyota Highlander, 13,682 miles, 5.7 percent above average
Ford Explorer, 13,523 miles, 4.5 percent above average.
The Boston-area website bills itself as a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best deals through various insights and resources such as big data analytics. The study analyzed more than 2.3 million car sales of 10-year-old cars to identify the top 13 vehicles with the highest annual mileage.
The analysis found that full-size SUVs are dominant, accounting for nine of the 10 vehicles represented. The only passenger car to make to make the top 10 list was the Toyota Prius. The vast majority of the most-driven passenger cars are midsize sedans.
A check by News-Press NOW of local dealerships that sell the list’s top five vehicles shows the SUV trend is strong in the St. Joseph area.
Trevin Reed, general manager of Reed Chevrolet, sees no surprise in the trends toward more consumer interest in the larger vehicles. He called both the Suburban and Tahoe good vehicles for road trips. Families especially find them useful for outings such as vacations, terming improvements in fuel economy, technology and safety as other key factors in the decision.
“The vehicles kind of enable that,” said Reed of the vacations. “We’re seeing a big shift (away from cars).”
Jon Wineberger, who is a sales and leasing professional for Albright Buick GMC Cadillac, said the Yukon has also proven itself as an effective family hauler.
“It’s obviously ... the kids are involved in after-school sports,” Wineberger said.
He echoed the sentiments of other dealers in recognizing that most automakers are moving away from sedans in favor of SUVs and pickup trucks.
“Everybody’s tending to go to SUVs,” he added. “It’s the ease of getting in and out of the vehicle.”
According to Wineberger, General Motors is striving to keep ownership costs down with such features as LED lights.
Billy Weaver, a salesman for Rolling Hills Auto Plaza, said the Highlander has been a longtime popular model in the Toyota lineup, and like the other dealers he cited the valuable asset of room for passengers and item storage as needed.
“It’s a good fit for families,” he said. “Very adaptable ... They’ve been popular since I’ve been here, and that’s been about 13 years ago. ... It’s a staple in the fleet. There’s been times when we couldn’t get enough of them.”
Tony Richey, sales consultant with Anderson Ford, said the Explorer has been building upon a reputation that goes back for a quarter century. He said the Explorer was a forerunner by showcasing the rear-wheel drive that could be switched to a four-wheel drive, a feature which has returned.
“A lot of SUVs don’t have that right now,” he said. “It made a name for itself in the mid-90s. And so we see in the Midwest that it’s trending towards more fuel economy.”
Last year, Ford announced its intention to discontinue all but two cars in its lineup. The Fusion sedan will be the last piece of the phase-out of Ford cars encompassing the next several model years.
“It was something they’ve been working on,” Richey said of Ford’s course change. The custom orders showed it. It’s a no-brainer. We’re switching over to the SUV segment.”
All the dealerships reported the SUVs’ safety ratings, strong demand and ease of financing at the end of the model year as additional keys to the trend. And the Highland and Explorer both feature hybrid models as well for a further enhancement of fuel economy.