The auto industry is an interesting creature; sometimes, you can see clear trends that make a lot of sense, while other times, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to what’s going on. Looking at information from Edmunds about SUV sales over the last five years, there are some interesting patterns and changes in the market. However, one thing is clear: car dealerships are selling a lot of SUVs, and there have been some big winners each year in terms of overall sales.
While the top spot for total SUVs sold in the US has shifted most years, there are still some trends that are apparent. Jeep is a consistent leader in selling SUVs here, but that could also be due to the fact that nearly their entire lineup is SUV models. Top sellers have changed from year to year, and there are some interesting correlations regarding what sold well and what was happening in the industry. Let’s take a look at the last five years and SUV sales across the US to see what’s going on and what the future might hold.
Going back to 2016, there were some interesting things worth noting, starting with the fact that Jeep was the top SUV brand for the year, with 734,539 vehicles sold. That’s impressive when you consider that Toyota was in second place with over 100,000 fewer SUVs sold, followed by Ford, Honda, and Subaru. It’s worth noting that Chevy wasn’t even on the list of the top five – but that’s about to change.
One very interesting thing to note is that even though Subaru was in the fifth position, with 458,228 total SUVs sold, the Subaru Outback was one of the most popular models for the year. Throughout much of the Pacific Northwest and western part of the US, the Subaru Outback was the single top-selling model. In fact, even though Jeep was the best selling SUV brand overall, no Jeep model was the top-selling SUV in any state – further proof that while their full lineup is very popular, no one model appeals to everyone.
Jumping ahead to 2017, there are some big shifts, especially in terms of the top-selling model in a lot of states. For one thing, Toyota became the top-selling brand with 747,492 SUVs sold. Subaru actually slipped out of the top five in 2017, being replaced by Chevy. While the Chevy Equinox was big in a few states in 2016, it really boomed in popularity in 2017 and started taking over a lot of the American Midwest. However, despite losing the #1 place, Jeep actually sold slightly more SUVs in 2017 than it did in 2016.
Although the Subaru Outback remained very popular in a lot of areas, continuing to dominate in Washington and Oregon, for example, the Toyota RAV4 became much more popular in 2017. It was the top-selling SUV in California and much of the American South, including Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The Honda CR-V remained a very popular option in 2017, holding onto a lot of states where it was the top seller the previous year, while the Ford Escape was still a top choice in some states but began losing ground to the Chevy Equinox.
In 2018, Jeep once again took over the top spot in terms of total SUVs sold in the US, with an incredible 834,777 vehicles sold, while Toyota slipped back to #2, selling 800,943 SUVs in that year – but you can see that these numbers are a strong increase over the previous two years for both companies. Honda moved up to the third spot in 2018 with 607,022 vehicles sold, while Ford slipped to fourth and Chevy held strong in fifth place for the year. At this point, the Subaru Outback completely slipped off the charts and was no longer the top-selling SUV in any state in the US – the Forester remained the best seller in Alaska.
When it comes to the top-sellers by state, the Toyota RAV4 really dominated in 2018, taking over the Pacific Northwest along with Louisiana. There’s an interesting correlation here because the 2019 RAV4 was an all-new model that had been completely redesigned. Despite Chevy coming in fifth for overall SUV sales in the country, the Equinox continued to remain popular in much of the Midwest – it was the top-selling SUV in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, both Dakotas, and other states.
Toyota continued to be a major force to be reckoned with in 2019 and again took the top spot from Jeep, selling 810,115 SUVs. Jeep slipped to second place with 734,912 SUVs sold for the year – its lowest sales since 2016. In 2019, one of the biggest upsets was Ford slipping down off the top five: Chevy took fourth place, and Subaru came back to secure the fifth spot.
In 2019, the Toyota RAV4 dominated about half the country as the top-selling model in pretty much every state west of the Dakotas – plus it was the most popular model in Texas and much of the South too. It even replaced the Subaru Forester as the best selling SUV in Alaska in 2019 and was terrifically popular in Maine, New Hampshire, and other parts of New England. The Chevy Equinox remained quite popular in 2019, though the Jeep Cherokee and RAV4 took a few states away from it.
Despite the disruptions of the pandemic, Toyota continued to dominate SUV sales in 2020 with 748,989 vehicles sold. Jeep remained strong in second place with 621,833 models sold, while Chevy moved up into third place for the first time in the last five years. Honda slipped to fourth place with Subaru just below it – once again, Ford was nowhere to be seen in the top five SUV sellers in the US.
The Toyota RAV4 continued to be the best selling SUV model in much of the country, holding the West Coast, the Southern states, and most of New England. While the Jeep Cherokee remained popular in a couple of states, the Honda CR-V and Chevy Equinox were the other two big winners in terms of the most popular single models in the US. There’s no denying the massive appeal of the RAV4, however, which conquered much of this country as the top-selling SUV model last year.
What’s it All Mean?
The trend is pretty clear: Jeep has done well for itself, holding onto one of the top two spots each of the last five years, but Toyota has become the one to beat. In the last five years, Toyota has been the top-selling SUV brand for three of them, and during that time, the RAV4 has boomed in popularity. Going back to 2016, the RAV4 was the top-selling model in fewer than a dozen states across the country, with Arizona, Texas, and Florida as some of its biggest markets.
Since the release of the revamped and all-new 2019 RAV4, however, Toyota has been a force to be reckoned with. Over the last three years, it has swept the country, and in 2020, the RAV4 was the top-selling SUV in more than 30 states, including huge markets like California and essentially all of the Deep South. Will the RAV4 be able to keep this up, or will new models push it aside and gain more popularity? Only time will tell.