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Big SUVs making a comeback

by Drew Johnson

Despite what the White House might want, the large SUV segment is still alive and well in the United States.

The Obama administration has done its best to force the large SUV to the brink of extinction, but the buying public just won't let the big dinosaurs die.

It was thought that the White House's push to a 35.5mpg fleet average would essentially wipe out the large SUV from the American landscape, but big utes like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition have flourished in recent months. In fact, large SUV sales are up by double digits this year.

While peak sales seen in 2003 are probably long gone, the large SUV remains a staple of the American landscape. Sales are up 20 percent so far this year, with General Motors and Ford taking advantage of the relative boom.

"Unless the country decides to limit people to only having two kids, only having one activity and not having things like snowmobiles, jet skis and boats, then there will be some people who will still want these vehicles," Chevrolet marketing manager Mark Clawson said. GM's large SUV sales are up 11 percent this year, whiles Ford's SUV sales are up 28 percent.

GM and Ford say they are committed to the segment for the foreseeable future, although some changes are likely coming to improve fuel economy. Don't expect large utes to ditch their truck roots, but look for more fuel efficient engines - such as Ford's EcoBoost technology - and gearboxes with up to seven speeds.

GM has confirmed that a revamp of its SUV lineup is coming in either 2013 or 2014.

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