A Defense for Crossovers
Enthusiasts seem to be blaming crossovers for everything these days for some unknown reason. I have seen posts from CTzens that blame crossovers for everything from killing variety within the industry to headlights being too bright. I am so fed up with this that I am putting my long term project on hold in order to write this small piece on why crossovers are not the devils creation, and why they are great from a daily drivers perspective. I will admit right away, crossovers are not perfect. Just like any car they have their advantages and disadvantages. The goal of this post is to determine what makes a crossover so appealing, why enthusiasts hate them so much, and why companies should not stop producing them. Before you just go right to the comments and begin calling blasphemi on crossovers, please read this all the way through. There is nothing worse than a closed mind that is not open to a new perspective. When you are done reading all the way through, then you can go leave your hate comments.
From an enthuisits perspective, it can be easy to criticize the crossovers because we tend to overlook some of the more functional aspects of a vehicle in favor of excitement and performance. So let’s take a moment to go over what makes a crossover a functional daily driver. One of the biggest appeals is the added cargo space. I worked for a furniture store while I attended high school and part of college, and there was nothing more frustrating than a customer thinking that their new table was going to fit into their Toyota Yaris. Crossover though, no problem. Just pop open the back hatch and slide that sucker right in. Many consumers understand that they will not need this extra space every day, which is what draws them away from the full size SUVs and minivans. The other advantage is many crossovers offer AWD and added ground clearance. The added ground clearance gives the driver a commanding view of the road while adding to the cars “soft-roading” capabilities. No, these are not off-road vehicles and many crossover owners understand that. However, having the ability to travel through bad weather is important to many consumers.
For example, I live in an area where almost half the year, the landscape is covered by a thick layer of snow. One tragic night during the first big snowstorm of the year, my car got stuck in the middle of the road, and there was literally no hope in freeing it without a tow truck. The tow trucks were swamped with work that night, and I was not able to even get a hold of company to come help. My parents were no help either because they did not have a vehicle with the capabilities to conquer the elements to get me home. I was stranded at a gas station for two hours, until a good samaritan in a Dodge Nitro offered to drive me home. I was able to sleep in my bed that night because of the capabilities of a compact SUV, and a the kindness of a young woman. Now I am aware that a Nitro is more of a compact SUV than a crossover, however if my mom had owned the Honda CR-V that she does now, I believe that it could have made it through the snow to come save me. Crossovers are not built for conquering Sahara Desert, but rather the hazards that daily drivers face from time to time including snow storms and flooding. On top of these advantages, crossovers are also safer than a traditional sedan. Due to the overall larger size, they often perform better on crash tests than their sedan counterparts. Now I am not claiming that crossovers are best for everyone, all consumers have different needs that they prioritize. However, given the added value consumers get for the marginal cost compared to a traditional sedan, it isn’t hard to see what draws them to the crossover. They are good at many things while being a master of none.
So given all these percs, why do enthusiasts criticize them so much? I have a few ideas, the first being that we just need to hate something new every now and then. During the 70’s it was the station wagon. When the minivan debuted in the 80’s it was quickly hated by enthusiasts. Finally in the 90’s the Toyota Prius was the target of choice and to a degree still is. However, it seems like the crossover has become the vehicle of choice to hate. The characteristic that all of these vehicles share is that they prefer functionality over form. This goes back to enthusiasts prioritizing looks and performance over anything else. Another thought is the lack of performance models. The crossover does prefer functionality over form, thus the idea of performance models doesn’t seem very appealing to manufactures right now. This could change down the road. With the market for crossovers expanding as rapidly as it is, performance models could be a gateway to an additional market that manufactures may attempt to tap into.
Now, the final reason that I believe crossovers get a lot of hate is what I will call the Eclipse exception. I am of course referring to the Mitsubishi Eclipse crossover, and even I believe that it is sacrilege. Giving a functional vehicle like this a sports car name is something that I can not nor will not defend. The main reason is that I just don’t see the advantage of it. Yea there is name recognition, but that is not what the Eclipse name used to stand for. I would argue that they could have named it something original and sales would have been about same. While the Eclipse name was tarnished by this marketing nightmare, I feel as though many enthusiasts want to paint all crossovers with this broad, negative brush.
Now the thing that has bugged me the most about the criticism of crossovers is when enthusiasts call for them to be banned, or to stop being produced. The simple fact is that the market wants what the market wants. Crossovers are one of the fastest growing car segments right now, and manufactures would be fools not to stake out their corner of this market, let alone leave it. The truth is car manufactures are a company, and companies need to make a profit. When you really get right down to it, cars like this finance the type of fun performance cars that enthusiasts crave for. Let’s use the first generation Dodge Viper as an example of this type of financing. About ten years before it was first developed in the early 90’s, the idea of Chrysler not going bankrupt was pretty absurd. Then Lee Iacocca stepped in and developed boring cars that Americans wanted to buy like the K-car and the minivan. I’m quoting Mr. Regular from Regular Car Reviews here but “the Viper stood on mighty K-car’s shadow, and minivan shoulders”.
The same can be said for crossovers today. Would a new Supra even be in development had it not been for the success of Toyotas regular cars and crossovers? There is reason that we are seeing a surge in exclusive brands producing SUVs and crossovers. The fact is that this is where the money is. Ferrari, Lotus, and Lamborghini, they all understand that the market for high end supercars is very mature and the new market they can tap into are these crazy daily drivers. While it does tarnish the exclusivity of their names, the revenue that they will receive will allow them to finance more crazy projects that will compensate for this.
As I said at the beginning of this, crossovers are not perfect. I personally have no desire to own a crossover given my current stage in life. It isn’t hard for me to see why for many consumers, a crossover is an ideal choice. My mother loves her Honda CR-V and if I ever get stranded at a gas station in the dead of winter again, I am confident that it will be able to save me. From a daily perspective it isn’t hard to see the advantages from the said mentioned soft-roading capabilities, to the added cargo room. For some reason though enthusiasts seem to just dismiss them as a useless vehicle, and I can’t really find a good reason for it. No matter what, this is the direction that the market is heading, so it will be something we need to get used to. At the end of the day consumers speak the loudest with their wallets, and consumers can’t stop shouting how much they love the crossover. It is for that reason alone that the crossover is not going away anytime soon.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end, let me know your thoughts on the subject and overall writing style.