Midsize mania - SUV category dominates Jamaican market
The style and sophistication of midsize sports utility vehicles (SUV) have created an enduring appeal which in turn stimulates high demand in both the new- and used-car markets.
Vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi ASX, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Volkswagen Touareg rank high among the new vehicles preferred by customers and outsell cars which ride significantly closer to the ground.
The Honda CR-V is also popular on the used-car market, as is the Toyota Vanguard (a slightly beefier ride than the RAV4) and the Nissan Dualis.
In addition to their styling, the poor state of roads across the country is also given as a reason for the high midsize SUV purchases.
"The demand basically is because of the condition of our roads; that's number one. People feel a lot more comfortable in a higher-riding vehicle and SUVs today drive more like cars than they used to in the old days. Generally speaking, the customers that we have prefer to purchase an SUV than a car," said chairman of the new-car sellers' organisation, the Automobile Dealers Association (ADA), Kent LaCroix.
He also pointed out that prices for the vehicles generally range from three to four million dollars, with some tending to cost a little more.
LaCroix's counterpart in the used-car business, president of the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association, Lynvalle Hamilton, confirmed that there is great demand for these vehicles. However, Hamilton was quick to point out that problems arise when the vehicles are to be valued.
"We have been having a lot of problems with the valuators when these vehicles come in. According to them, they judge the value of the vehicle based on what the new one is selling for. Sometimes the price that you get the vehicle for in Japan pushes the price outside of what the valuator thinks the vehicle should be selling for, and that has posed great challenges to the dealers," he said.
Because of that, Hamilton said, "some tend to shy away from bringing them in".
It was pointed out that the midsize SUVs are increasingly fuel efficient. "Fuel economy gets better as the new ones come out. Some are more advantageous than others, but usually they are in the 2000cc (engine size) range," LaCroix stated.
Among the top-selling midsize SUVs, the RAV4 stands out. It has a fuel economy that ranges from 28 to 34 miles per gallon. "Persons are moving away from larger SUVs because of the economy that we are in," said assistant marketing manager at Toyota Jamaica, Tracey-Ann Fletcher.