Europe's mass-market small SUV segment is growing so rapidly that key players such as Ford, Jeep and Opel are doubling their model offerings. Last year the segment -- which continues to be led by the Renault Captur -- outpaced growth in all others except electric cars, with a 37 percent increase to 1.83 million units.
The boost given by new models such as the Volkswagen T-Roc, Citroen C3 Aircross and Seat Arona was such that small SUVs came close to passing the compact SUV segment, which recorded sales of 1.88 million units, according to figures from market analysts at JATO Dynamics.
The increase in popularity of small SUVs is such that they will briefly overtake compact variants as the most popular SUV segment in 2020, analyst firm LMC Automotive predicts.
Sales will rise to 1.99 million this year and 2.16 million in 2020, just ahead of compact SUVs, LMC forecasts. This comparison uses Automotive News Europe's segmentation -- which lists the VW T-Roc as a small rather than compact SUV, for example. In 2021, compact SUVs will be back in front -- but only just, LMC estimates.
The growth has prompted Ford to develop a second model, called Puma, which launches toward the end of the year. The Puma will be built alongside the EcoSport small crossover at Ford's factory in Craiova, Romania.
"SUVs are becoming so dominant that it makes sense to have more entries," Roelant de Waard, Ford's head of sales and marketing for Europe, told Automotive News Europe at the brand's recent unveiling of the new Kuga compact crossover. "You see others already going that way, for example with VW with the T-Roc and T-Cross."
The Puma brings some of the dynamism and sporty looks that helped to make Ford's Fiesta the biggest-selling small car in Europe and is expected to help replace some of the sales lost as the small-car segment declines.