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Entries in Utility (4)

Thursday
Dec222016

The Truck Thing

To be clear by truck we mean pick ups and the various sizes of utility vehicles.

This year we have seen the "truck thing" gain increased momentum in Canada, while some well entrenched models in the utility segment have been disrupted.

Yes...gas is reasonably inexpensive, although on a upward trajectory.

The sedan segment is taking a pounding from the truck utility segment. Everybody wants some sort of a truck/utility and it seems that nobody wants a car.

By now we know that pick ups are popular in many areas of Canada, except dense urban areas. Even in those areas the mid size pick ups are making some inroads.

The various sizes, and segments of utility vehicles are making serious inroads into the car segment. Especially the compact utilities which are quite versatile compared to sedans. The driver sits higher, in numerous instances its AWD, with a reasonable cargo area. Its a useful vehicle...offering a strong value proposition.

Will the truck thing continue in 2017? What do you think?

 

 

Tuesday
Oct112016

Evolution of Utility Vehicles

Lets see if we can connect a few dots this morning, and what tentative conclusion will come of the dot connections.

If you have been in the auto business or a gear head for a while, you will remember some of these vehicles. Today a myriad of utility vehicles (trucks) are displacing sedans in the sales numbers.

How did this utility movement start?

Back in the early 1970's International had the Scout, GM developed the Blazer/Jimmy, Ford the Bronco, and Chrysler the Ramcharger. They were basically shortened pick ups with a fiberglass roof over the rear passenger area.

The majority were real 4x4 with a transfer case, low range, and free wheeling front hubs. They were small back then, but big by today's standards and captured the imagination of a market segment. If the metal must resonate, these smaller utilities resonated.

It was a case of your personal utility/toy with only 2 doors; not really family oriented.

At one point (late 1970's) every one seemed to have a down sized pick up, and a down sized utility vehicle still a 2 door.

At some point (early 1980's) the Jeep Grand Wagoneer with wood paneling similar to the station wagons captured the attention of a wider market segment. It had 4 doors, leather interior, all the convenience features of the day, transfer case, low range. It was big but smaller than a Suburban.

Lets keep in mind that in 1977 when GM down sized the full size cars, Suburbans became increasingly popular as a replacement for the pre 1977 full size station wagon.

At some point the down sized utilities added 2 doors, now they have 4 doors, the Grand Cherokee is the darling of the segment, while the Ford Explorer is very popular.

These vehicles become the "family kicker" the "mommy car" and the go anywhere its a 4x4 with a frame, transfer case, low range. A family would have a sedan, and a "kicker".

At a certain point in the new century, the frame morphed into a unibody and common platform, the transfer case became a viscous copling, the low range dissapeared too. Now we have an AWD vehicles that is cheaper to build, with a common platform.

Manufacturers have constantly removed the barriers to reach a larger market segment. Poor fuel economy, not so much now. Too much truck, now it might be too much car. Not enough amenities, not anymore.

In the meantime the "utility vehicle" segment continues to grow, and grow, and grow some more.

What is the current utility vehicle?

Is it a sedan? NO but its probably on a sedan platform

Is it a station wagon? NO but it sort of looks like a wagon

Is it a truck? NO but still identified as a truck.

Its a UV (utility vehicle) and getting smaller, more luxurious, and increasing its appeal.

So what is it?

Its a boxy station wagon on stilts without the wood paneling.

 

 

Wednesday
Apr062016

What's Happening to Sedans?

Remember the reference to the "family car" which was used for decades, and often stll used today.

It was always a car, starting with a coupe for younger individuals or couples with no kids, migrating to a sedan, or perhaps even a station wagon.

There were all sorts of coupes, from the 2 door post, to the hardtop, same for sedans the 4 door post, and the hardtop. Obvious that the hardtops were the more popular versions. The versions with the post were always offered in the lower line models.

Let's not forget station wagons from back in the day.

At some point the mini van came along, and station wagons started fading away. Yes...a mini van is more useful than a wagon, perhaps even becoming the defacto family car in many instances.

Light Duty Trucks

Way back in the day what we collectively call a utility vehicle in 2016 was a light duty 1/2 ton truck. Notice the model designators, 1 for 1/2 ton, 2 for 3/4 ton, 3 for 1 ton, and 4 or 5 for a heavier duty 1 ton.

Keep the light duty trucks in the back of your mind for a moment, as well as station wagons.

Morphing

When you start morphing light duty trucks and station wagons at some point the current 2016 versions of utility vehicles becomes a reality.

This current crop of utility vehicles are more station wagons than trucks, more car than a truck even a light duty truck, often with an innovative all wheel drive version which truly resonates in the Canadian market.

Let's not forget the higher seating position of a utility vehicle.

The morphing is inexorably displacing sedans as the "family car" now its the "family utility".

 

Thursday
Jan072016

What Happened To Station Wagons?

On several occasions we have made references to the current crop of "utility" vehicles being the modern or current versions of station wagons from way back in the day.

Think of this, current sales of utility vehicles are through the roof, while sales of station wagons were always subdued, to now being almost non existent.

What is the deal with station wagons?

At one time there was a wagon version of almost every car line and model of cars offered by every manufacturer. There was literally a compact car wagon to a full size wagon. The more popular versions were the full size with a frame, a bigger than smaller engine, and a towing option to enhance the versatility of the usefulness of the wagon.

1975 Buick Estate Wagon

You can quickly imagine a mid size, and full size utility vehicle instead of wagons in the photo. Keep in mind that wagons have an improved rear biased weight distribution than a sedan...these full size wagons with a positraction rear axle were solid performers in snow.

Some years later...

1993 Subaru Lagacy Wagon AWD

As we all know there have been all wheel drive versions of wagons offered by several manufacturers through the years. 

The criteria was to offer a wagon that was at the same or only marginally higher ride height than a car. The wagon was/is the utility version of the car.

Perhaps because Ford did not have a Suburban, think of this now...50 years ago they offered the Bronco as a smaller sized alternative.

1966 Ford Bronco

Here is a utility vehicle with an appreciably higher ride height than a car, or station wagon, that is completely utilitarian especially with a solid front axle, and locking hubs.

The increased ride height has a strong feminine appeal...keep the thought.

At one point, with technology enabling simplified all wheel drive application, the final steps in morphing the station wagon and a utility vehicle were possible.

The rest as we say is history...

The station wagon had a niche, the utility vehicle had a niche, morph the 2 together with a higher ride height, and suddenly its a market with a huge potential.