Auto Index – A Great Year for SUVs, Not So Good for Luxury and Sports Cars

Recently, new Ford CEO Jim Hackett detailed the importance of SUVs and alternative-fuel vehicles going forward, moving away from passenger cars. From a business perspective, this makes sense – SUVs and trucks tend to have higher margins, and Americans seem to be buying them more than they are traditional passenger cars.

But will this continue? Do Americans in 2017 really not care about passenger cars?

We broke down data from the Swoop Automotive Digital Brand Exposure Index – our quarterly look at what Americans are reading about in the automotive world – to see what the segment-specific trends look like. And, to Mr. Hackett’s credit, the SUV/Crossover segment has grown a ton since last year, jumping from 22.6% of all digital interest to 27.23%, by far the biggest segment.

However, what’s somewhat surprising is the segments that took the biggest hits. With automakers’ public moves away from passenger cars and the much-publicized declines in passenger car sales, we expected to see a significant decrease in online interest in compact and midsized cars. However, both of those segments grew between last year and this; the segments taking the big hits on visibility were sports cars and luxury vehicles.

That said, when we dug further into what was driving the compact and midsize segments to grow, we found that almost all of the visibility increases over the past year were from the Honda Accord in the midsize segment and the Honda Civic in the compact. When we took Honda’s flagships out of each segment, we found something more in line with our expectations – midsize visibility still grew, albeit much slower, and compact car visibility declined:

After analyzing our data, we should congratulate Honda on a couple of very successful model rollouts – the Civic Type R and, to a lesser extent the Si, dominated digital interest in tremendously impressive fashion. On the midsize passenger car side, the 2018 Honda Accord, the 10th generation of the car, also drove enough digital interest to impact its entire segment.

With sales down on passenger cars, it’s interesting to note that digital interest can still spike in response to a hot, hyped release. SUVs and crossovers are running away with the hearts and minds of Americans reading about and researching cars online, luxury and sports car markets are generating much less interest, and while alternative fuel vehicle interest has nearly doubled over the past year, it’s still less than one percent of total digital interest.

SUVs and crossovers dominate, but Honda’s success in driving interest (which, we should note, may or may not translate to sales) in their new Civic and Accord models does show at least some life in passenger cars.

For more information on Swoop’s Automotive Digital Brand Exposure Index, or for questions on our data, contact us today.

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