May 3 2014, 12:48am CDT | by Forbes
Sales of large SUVs are coming back in a big way: Hulking utility vehicles — including the GMC Yukon, Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Expedition — accounted for some of the very top percentage gains for major automakers in April compared with year-ago sales.
At least four factors could account for what seems to be a gathering boom in sales of some of the industry’s most expensive and highest-profit vehicles at this late stage of the U.S. auto-sales recovery, in a segment long given up for moribund.
First, rebounding confidence in the economy may be creating significant lift under sales of the heaviest SUVs. Second, gasoline prices have continued their recent stabilization between about $3.50 and $3.90 a gallon, sidelining the segment’s subpar gas mileage as a concern for many.
Third, more consumers are realizing that America’s new long-term security in domestic hydrocarbon-energy supplies provides some protection against their roomy new SUV becoming a dinosaur in a year or two.
Interestingly, a mini-renaissance in this segment had the leaders achieving even higher-percentage year-on-year gains than pickup trucks, the industry’s other massive-profit category. And while small-business purchases of pickup trucks are a huge determinant of the trend in that segment, sales of SUVs are much more directly a reflection of consumer attitudes and financial capabilities.
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