July 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

SUV, crossover sales surpass sedans for first time

For the first time, more people are buying or leasing SUVs and crossovers than sedans, according to Colorado-based forecasting firm IHS Automotive.

IHS said that, through May, SUVs and crossovers account for 36.5 percent of the new vehicle market, compared to 35.4 percent for sedans. Five years ago, sedans held the top spot with 36.3 percent of the market, while SUVs and crossovers accounted for 31.4 percent. IHS studied vehicle registration data supplied by Southfield-based automotive data firm Polk.

“These vehicles offer the combination of appealing features associated with both cars and light trucks, including a higher seating position, higher ground clearance, softer ride, more interior space, optional four-wheel or all-wheel drive, and towing capacity, among others,” Tom Libby, manager, loyalty solutions and industry analysis at IHS Automotive, said in a statement. “Combined with the successful launches of all-new models and the introduction of redesigned existing products, these body styles offer a compelling option for the market.”

In response to the popularity of the segment, automakers are offering a number of new models, including the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Nissan Motor Co.’s Rogue and Ford Motor Co.’s Edge, among others. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has sold more than 80,000 new Jeep Cherokees this year, which helped its Jeep brand post a best-ever June sales month.

Even the luxury brands, in a quest to offer fuller lineups, are getting in on the SUV trend.

Lincoln just launched its new MKC, Porsche will offer the Macan, and Mercedes has the GLA.

In its “Car Wars” report, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research said that between 2005 and 2014, crossovers represented 25 percent of new models. That number will jump to 28 percent between 2015 and 2018.

“Crossovers are hot,” Matt Degen, editor for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, said in an interview with The News last week. “Nowadays, probably more than ever, people want something different.”

Smaller SUVs — the compact and subcompact categories — are growing in popularity, too.

Combined sales of compact and subcompact SUVs have nearly doubled since 2008, from 10 percent to 18 percent of the U.S. market, according to AutoTrader.com.

IHS says traditional four-door sedans isn’t the only segment losing share to SUVs and crossovers. Hatchbacks, pickups, coupes, passenger vans and convertibles have all lost share over the past five years, IHS found.

“Between product introduction activity and expected decline in fuel prices, market conditions in the short-term forecast point to continued momentum within the SUV/CUV segments,” Chris Hopson, manager, North American light vehicle sales forecasting for IHS Automotive, said in a statement. “Longer term, concerns over fuel efficiency standards and rising oil prices are expected to pressure light truck sales.”

mmartinez@detroitnews.com