LOS ANGELES — With U.S. gas prices at historic lows and ever more economical engines, sport utility vehicles increasingly rule the road -- and not only in the United States.
At least that’s the message from the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opened to the public Friday.
"Customers feel the idea of freedom," said Jim Farley, vice-president of global sales at Ford (IW 500/6), presenting the US carmaker's new Explorer at the LA show, which runs until November 30.
"We have reached a tipping point," where SUVs are more popular than sedans and have entered the mainstream, said Farley, whose company is the biggest SUV maker in America.
Nearly one vehicle in five sold globally is an SUV, while in the United States the figure is one in three.
The car category has come a long way since its early days, when SUVs were huge things mounted on a truck chassis, guzzling gas and equipped with four-wheel drive for rough terrains.
In 2008, when gas prices were at their peak, the market appeared permanently stalled.
But these days SUVs -- or crossovers -- are rarely seen off road and are frequently built on a car chassis.
There is a whole range of formats, from the biggest including the Ford Escalade, Toyota Sequoia or Jeep Grand Cherokee to the most compact like the Mazda CX-3, the Honda CRV 2016 and the Volvo 2015 XC90, all unveiled in LA.
US car sales rose by 6% year-on-year in October, led by SUVs: specialist brand Jeep (part of the Fiat Chrysler group) is up 52%, but the trend extends to others, including Honda, Toyota and General Motors.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014