Traditional car buying habits, which have long inclined towards hatchbacks, saloons and estates, are changing in favour of the latest generation of SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles).
Once, the hatchback was the most popular single type of car bought by the British motor buying public. But, not any more.
The rise of the SUV
New figures show that the most popular type of car in the UK in 2015 was the SUV with a 22.5% share of the market, compared to a 19.8% share in 2014. The most popular model was the Nissan Qashqai.
And for the first time, the SUV usurped the sub-compact category, epitomised by the Ford Fiesta, which saw its market share fall to 21.9% last year, down from 22.7% in 2014.
Sales in the compact car category – typical model the Volkswagen Golf – were also superseded by the rise of the SUV. Sales in the compact class fell from 21.3% of the new car market in 2014 to 20.6% last year.
At the same time, sales of the MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle or people carrier) also fell , down to a 10.4% market share last year from 11.6% in 2014.
The rise of the Qashqai
Against this backdrop of changing buying preferences, the SUV has come out on top. In the UK, the biggest success story has been the Nissan Qashqai.
Early in the new millennium, Nissan began working on a 4×4 crossover – dubbed ‘crossover’ because it straddles several different car types – which went on to become the Qashqai – named over a nomadic race of people living in southwest Iran.
Today, the Sunderland-produced Qashqai is the UK’s largest volume manufactured car, with Nissan workers churning them out at the rate of 350,000 a year.
Success is Europe-wide
It is not just in the UK that the move towards the SUV and away from conventional models has become apparent. Across Europe, where 14.2m cars were sold last year, there was a 32% surge in crossover sales to 3.2m, which amounted to a 22% share of the new car market.
The Qashqai, and its sibling the Juke, which is also Sunderland-built, accounted for around one in eight of all SUVs sold across Europe last year.
As well as capturing market share from the small and medium sized car categories to the extent that they are no longer Europe’s best selling categories,, the SUV has also eaten into that of the MPV or people carrier.
Sales of people carriers have slipped below1.5m and now account for about one in ten of all new cars sold across Europe.
Falling luxury car sales
Upmarket SUVs have also eaten into the market share enjoyed by the traditional large executive cars, epitomised by models such as the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes C and E Class, which have fallen by 1%.
Luxury executive cars, such as the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes S-Class have fared even worse, losing 6% in sales in 2015.
The European trend is one that has been identified in the US for some time. Both economic and social factors, including lower fuel prices and the growing appeal of the SUV’s benefits – including a higher driving position with a more commanding view – have contributed to its sales success.
Competitive finance deals
One of the key factors behind the rise of SUVs, and sales of all new cars in general, in 2015 was the availability of competitive vehicle finance deals.
The latest figures from the Finance Leasing Association show that in 2015 there was a 10% rise in point-of-sale new car finance for the year as a whole, with a 22% growth in December alone.
Consumers bought 984,077 new cars using finance products – worth £16.20bn in 2015, with 67,667 new cars sold in December worth £1.159bn.
At the same time, UK businesses bought 508,527 new cars on some form of finance, a 6% year-on-year rise.
How to take advantage
Now might be the perfect time to invest in a new car, with four in five new car purchases currently made on some form of finance.
Many private motorists acquire a new car through personal contract purchase (PCP) plans, which account for 70% of all new car finance deals.
Under this method, the buyer puts down a deposit, pays a monthly figure, for a set period, typically two or three years, and at the end of the term either hands the car back or buys it for a pre-agreed price.
It’s simple, easy and there are currently some amazing deals available – which is why it’s so popular.
What other options are there?
For businesses of all sizes, business car leasing provides known monthly costs with no residual value risks.
Maxxia has a range of special offers for businesses on a variety of vehicles, including the latest SUVs.
Prices for the best-selling Qashqai start at just £169 per month + VAT, after an initial down-payment of six month’s rentals of £1,018.
Other new models including 4x4s, saloons, hatchbacks, MPVs and city cars are all readily available.
Some of these deals are available for a limited time only, and packages can be tailor-made to suit every need, including varying mileage allowances and payment profiles.
Another option for individuals could be personal leasing, which can offer a financially viable alternative to purchasing a new car outright, as again there are no worries about the cost of depreciation – one of the highest costs associated with buying a new car.