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How the SUV game is changing

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Posted  Thursday, May 8  2014 at  01:00

In Summary

With competition heating up in the auto industry, automakers are changing the game for fans of the sports utility vehicles (SUV). In the past, automakers were into rugged and robust utility vehicles that had a ‘go anywhere’ kind of feel. Today, the market is into soft roaders, most of them don’t offer the off road capability that traditional SUVs would crave for. What went happened?

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Mustafa: Paul, you have a Land Rover, you have an ML, what is it with sports utility vehicles?

Jude: He likes being up in the air

Mustafa: Let me hear it from him.

Jude: He likes seeing us from up there.

Mustafa: Is it that you have a farm and you need to visit all corners? But before you say anything, personally, I have always preferred sedans (saloon cars) over SUVs.

Paul: I think it is an issue that is more about functionality. SUVs tend to have the advantage of being high off the ground on our bad roads. And because SUVs tend to be four wheel drive, they tend to have stronger suspensions. The frequency of replacing suspension parts is longer. What Mustafa did not stress is the brand name- Land Rover. The best four by four by far! It is a bit of workhorse as well. It carries cement, plants, cargo and tools. So it is more of a functional vehicle. I can go anywhere in that Land Rover. I think those are some of the reasons people choose to buy SUVs and not the luxury aspect. My SUVs are old, they are practical and that is why I bought them.

Mustafa: You present an interesting point. Functionality is the most fundamental purpose of SUVs. But if you look at the SUVs of the 60s and 70s, these were tanks. But now they are more luxurious, the industry even has a new segment called cross-overs such as the Harriers. Manufacturers came up with vehicles that make you feel high up but at the same time giving you the feel of a sedan.

Jude: It is all about market dynamics.

Paul: Like Jude said, these days it is about the market. In the past it was actually government and some other institutions that were driving SUVs. It was the military, government administration, doctors etc. However, from the post-colonial governments era, SUVs now were wanted by private individuals. Globally, many people liked them thus creating a demand for luxuries. I think air conditioning was one of the first luxury features in SUVs.

Mustafa: I remember with some Land Rovers in the past, you would literally pour water in it and just mop it.

Paul: That is true. In there, you had steel plates, bare aluminium plates, metal.

Jude: Defenders just changed recently. These days their interiors have modern features unlike the older Defenders, which were more of field vehicles.

Paul: Remember the original Toyota FJ Cruiser? That was a real field vehicle. But if you see the FJ series of today, it is a luxury.

Mustafa: With all this luxury say like that of a 2012 Land Cruiser, it feels like you are in heaven! But does that mean it can still do the functionalities of me going uphill, go through rocks, go anywhere, does it have that “hardness”?
Jude: I don’t think so.

Paul: I think it can. Your question is very relevant. With comfort and practicality, here there is a tradeoff.

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