GM’s announcement to cut jobs and close production at several U.S. plants comes for several reasons: two big ones being a focus on building less compact cars and sedans, as well as investing in even more engineering for autonomous and electric vehicles. Analysts cheered for the former especially, as sedans are a money loser in the auto industry, and SUVs and trucks are moving up the ranks.

While the growth of SUV popularity is no industry secret, CivicScience research since 2015 backs it up. SUV preference, ownership, and intent to own has risen in the past three years, while sedan interest is declining.

SUV is Winning Primary Car Style

For the first time in CivicScience data, primary SUV ownership is on track to surpass sedan, as shown below. We predict SUV ownership will surpass sedan by mid next year.


This is backed up by overall car preference.

Next Purchase

Intent to purchase an SUV has also increased.

The A in Autonomous

What about the big bet GM is making on autonomous vehicles?

Since last year, interest in owning/leasing an autonomous vehicle, as well as interest in autonomous tech, has remained steady but is slightly down.

The current reading finds that 10% of U.S. adults have an interest in purchasing or leasing an autonomous vehicle, while 12% are interested in autonomous features like parking assist, lane change departure warnings, etc. All in all, 29% of adults have some interest in adopting autonomous vehicles. It’s no surprise numbers have gone down in the past 18 months after crashes involving autonomous vehicles. However, the fact that the interest in them has only slightly decreased after the bad PR should be encouraging.

For the most part, it seems that those who are interested in autonomous tech remain interested.

It’s (even more) Electric

Strong interest in owning an electric vehicle has risen, even since our last study in July.

While the percentage of Americans with an interest in electric cars (23%) has remained perfectly steady, those who report they are ‘very likely’ to choose electric for their next car is up from 5% to 7% only five months later.

Where things will go for GM is anyone’s guess. Investing in more SUV (and truck) production is no doubt wise, and time will tell how the autonomous trend plays out. For now, it’s a safe bet.