The SUV boom is finding a new gear, decimating sales of passenger cars and raising the average price of new vehicles.
In 2015, cars represented 43 percent of sales, according to Cox Automotive. In 2018, it was down to 30 percent.
About 1 in 2 vehicles sold in 2019 will be SUVs or crossovers, according to projections by car-buying advice site Edmunds.
Those larger vehicles are more expensive than their smaller car counterparts. Thus, average vehicle prices in November were up 9 percent from three years earlier to an all-time high of $37,188, according to car-buying advice site Edmunds.
So it should come as no surprise that four of the six vehicles on our list of the hottest selling models of 2018 are SUVs or crossovers.
Here’s our 2018 list of the hottest-selling new vehicles in the auto industry, based on a subjective mix of increased sales volume, momentum, buzz and industry chatter:
1. Jeep Compass
2018 sales: up 106 percent to 171,167 vehicles
This small SUV is on an absolute tear. It’s benefiting from a rush of buyers from passenger cars into small SUVs. And it’s capitalizing on the Jeep brand’s hot streak. Redesigned in 2017, the Compass is still fresh and affordable, with a starting price of $21,295.
In 2017, the Compass made up 10.1 percent of Jeep sales. In 2018, it made up 17.6 percent.
2. Tesla Model 3
2018 sales: 145,846 vehicles (up from a negligible amount in 2017)
For a large portion of the year, a cloud hung over Tesla as questions lingered about whether the company was capable of manufacturing the Model 3 at high volume and for a profit.
CEO Elon Musk answered that question with a resounding yes in the third quarter. And suddenly the Model 3 is one of the best-selling passenger cars in the country. In 2019, it could make a run for the top slot.
The key question now is: Will demand continue, or were there a finite number of customers?
3. Subaru Crosstrek
2018 sales: up 31.1 percent to 144,384
This vehicle is almost single-handedly responsible for propelling Subaru to its 11th consecutive year of sales increases. In fact, it’s the only Subaru model that was on sale in 2017 that posted an increase in 2018. A redesign played a big role in attracting buyers.
The only other Subaru that contributed to the company’s full-year sales increase was the Subaru Ascent, a new SUV that hit dealerships for the first time in 2018.
4. Honda Pilot
2018 sales: up 25.4 percent to 159,615 vehicles
This vehicle has turned into one of the most popular large SUVs in the industry. It’s Honda’s fourth best selling vehicle behind the CR-V crossover, Civic compact car and Accord midsize sedan.
Honda loyalists might be upsizing because the CR-V was up only 0.3 percent in 2018 despite the SUV boom. That suggests the Pilot’s extra room is proving attractive.
5. Toyota Tacoma
2018 sales: up 24 percent to 245,659 vehicles
This midsize pickup truck has an intensely loyal fan base and hits the sweet spot for Americans who don’t want the girth of a full-size pickup. It more than doubled the full-size Tundra pickup’s sales in 2018.
The midsize pickup segment is so hot that it’s attracting at least two new entries in 2018: the return of the Ford Ranger and the Jeep Gladiator.
6. Lincoln Navigator
2018 sales: up 69.5 percent to 17,839
Ford’s redesign of the Navigator is paying big dividends. Customers were paying an average of $26,000 or more for the new version as of November.
The Lincoln Black Label Navigator, a loaded version of the big SUV, is particularly hot.
And it might be swiping customers away from its stalwart rival, the Cadillac Escalade, which declined 2.2 percent to 36,872 vehicles in 2018.