Crossovers get smaller:
With explosive growth in crossover vehicles in the past five years, automakers are looking at new ways to attract buyers of more efficient SUVs that are based on car underpinnings.
At the Detroit show, Honda opened a new front in the battle with a sharp-looking small utility. It's based on a subcompact frame and will be smaller than Honda's popular CR-V. It's a new part of the market that's attractive to automakers because there aren't any well-established competitors to unseat.
"I think the industry as a whole believes there's opportunity here," Schuster says. "It's up for grabs."
Nissan already is in the market with its funky Juke. General Motors' Buick is just entering with an all-new Encore.
Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel says the new vehicle, called simply an "Urban SUV Concept," is designed for city commuters who still want the cargo space, adventurous lifestyle and high sitting position of an SUV.
It's aimed at people who no longer need a bigger SUV, yet don't want to give up the utility. Mendel says technology has allowed it to create more space in a smaller vehicle, matching the interior volume of older compact SUVs.
"If you've got a 5- or 7-year-old car, you can move down a class and not give up anything including space," he said.
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