Recently, I had a conversation with a baby boomer about her vehicle. She drives a Honda CR-V and tells me she likes it. It came up during the conversation that she thought her CR-V was a truck. I started asking questions and digging into why she might think this. Apparently, it has to do with the raised ride height, all-wheel drive, and overall vehicle appearance. I then, as gently as I could, informed her that her “truck” was not really a truck, rather it was what many refer to as a CUV. CUV stands for crossover utility vehicle and these are not “trucks” in the traditional sense.
When SUV’s first came onto the market, they were little more then short trucks with four doors. They have since evolved, but many people in the general public see current CUV’S and traditional SUV’s as the same. A CUV isn’t like a normal SUV in many ways – starting with the fact that they aren’t body on frame vehicles. They are unibody and essentially based off car platforms. They aren’t designed for the same capabilities as a traditional SUV. The aforementioned baby boomer from earlier was shocked to learn that her CR-V is based off a car.
CUV’s still have all-wheel drive, but most do not have off-road capabilities or even a low range like a traditional four-wheel drive. However, there are some that have locking differentials for deeper snow and sticky situations. Interestingly enough, many CUV’s are more capable then most consumers will ever need. With all that said, towing capacities are much lower then that of a typical SUV. The current Ford Explorer is a typical SUV, being body on frame. That will all be changing though with the new version that is set to go on sale at the end of this year/beginning of next year. The next generation Explorer went more mainstream, being unibody. This trend is continuing to expand among other SUV’s, including the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee (though the Grand Cherokee has always been unibody). The 2011 Grand Cherokee will also be unibody, though it will still retain hard core off -road capabilities in certain trim levels.
What this all boils down to is perception. People seem to want an “SUV”, but they do not want the many things associated with them. That list includes, but isn’t limited to, poor gas mileage, rough ride, sloppy handling and many other things. There are things people still want though – like increased ride height and the idea of off road capabilities. So what does this mean? It means that people want some characteristics of the SUV and not others – and that poses a challenge to marketers.