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Why Station Wagons Are More Popular In Europe Than America


Wagons away Hi, I’m Jack Smith and right now,
it’s station wagon savings time in the west. Time to hit the trail in high
style with all a will comfort, but only a Rambler station
wagon can give you. The station wagon was once a
fixture of American family life. It was a common sight in
American garages and frequently featured in popular culture. These days, however, it has
nearly vanished from US roads. Americans, at least most of them,
just don’t like the segment. And it shows in the tiny number
of wagons sold every year, Americans just don’t like wagons
for whatever reason. We we have rejected the
body style for many years. It’s been declining. You know, we think
back to perhaps some of those movies like National Lampoon’s Vacation, where
a family travels across the country in a wagon. Those days
are long, long behind us. And these days, wagon sales are less
than 2 percent of all industry sales. Meanwhile, crossovers and sport utility
vehicles continue to swallow market share, leading many manufacturers to
believe that if they want to sell a wagon, they need to lift it
a bit, maybe cover it with some cladding and call it a crossover. You want the crossover tag associated
with it because that’s what people are buying and that’s what
they want to buy. At some point, they may want another
tag because it’s no longer cool to own a crossover, an SUV. But right now, that’s
not the case yet. In 2018, consumers around the
world bought just under 2.5 million wagons, roughly a mere 3 percent
of all new cars sold in the United States the segment represents only about
1 to 2 percent of all sales. But in some European countries,
sales are several times that. Wagon’s represented nearly 20 percent of all
sales in Germany and at least a quarter of sales in some
Scandinavian countries, such as Finland and Sweden. wagons also comprised 23 percent
of all sales in Czech Republic, 16 percent in Slovakia and
15 percent in Poland. In Sweden our home country, close to
50 percent of our volume is related to wagons. You have the best residual
values, you have the most loyal consumers. And also that is how
we were live in Sweden. You know, nature is very important. We do exactly in line with Americans. You know, it’s a lot of football and
a lot of sports associated with our kids. So we need a space. And so the legacy of wagons
is really in our DNA. Also you see them all over the place
and the roads in Sweden and in Europe. More than 70 percent of all wagon’s
sold in the world are sold in Europe. There the wagon is still seen
as an efficient blend of function and performance, especially when fuel
prices can be quite high. In Europe, the station wagon
continues to be the prototype for many families, even though
it they have lost traction as well in Europe. Despite the fact
that Europe is the world’s wagon stronghold, data do suggest that sport
utilities are eating into its share on that continent as well. Of course, on the other end of
the spectrum, US data show that sport utility vehicles have completely eclipsed the
wagon as the family hauler of choice. Wagons have steadily lost share
in the US new car market from 3.69 percent of new car sales
in 2008 to 1.4 percent in 2018. Cross-overs and SUVs grew their share of the
new car market in the US by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018. They now make up nearly half
of all new car sales. For now, wagons have managed to find a
way to keep a foothold, albeit a small one in America. For example, the segment straddling Subaru
Outback has been a tremendously successful product for that company
part wagon, part crossover. The Outback was introduced in the 1995
model year as a variant of the Subaru legacy, but was soon spun out
into its own distinct brand and has become something of a phenomenon. The outback alone accounted for the vast
majority of wagon sales in the US. Of that, 1.4 percent of the US market wagons have
the outback alone makes up 1.2 percent. In other words,
almost all of it. That means all wagons sold by all
other brands combined would account for just 0.2 percent of the total
US new car market. So when we talk about wagons,
we’re essentially talking about one model with with a very decent industry share
and then a handful of other models that, quite frankly, don’t
sell very well. The outback is an example of how
wagon like vehicles can be successfully marketed in the United States and perhaps
gives an idea of how they are likely to look in the
future if they stick around. Though it retains many of the basic features
of a wagon, the car is lifted a bit and covered in plastic cladding to
give it more of a rugged outdoor appearance. It retains the basic silhouette
of the wagon, but the outback has evolved over time to incorporate
more attributes of SUVs and crossovers Subaru told CNBC. This includes standard all wheel drive, the
ability to tow up to thirty five hundred pounds and a full
eight point seven inches of ground clearance higher than what is
found on many SUVs. The company said they were one of
the early players obviously in this crossover space before the term
crossover was even mentioned. And that’s again when they
were being called wagons. So I think they’ve done well if
they’ve got a very loyal buyer. They’ve expanded into the certainly the
outdoor lifestyle buyer has has has long been a Subaru advocate. So I think, you know, is that as
that continues to to develop and people are more interested in an active, active
lives and in certainly what what super has to offer from
just an honor and capability. But but also on dirt
and on on trails even. The outback shows that selling a wagon in the
US may be a lot easier if it happens to look like
a sport utility vehicle. In fact, it might be one of the
only wagon like vehicles to survive in the United States. But yeah, no question
about it, the wagon market is certainly taking cues from the from
the SUV and crossover segments and adding, as you said, a little
bit of cladding, raising that ground clearance up a little bit to give
it that that view that essentially it can compete with a crossover. That rather dire outlook has not
stopped other automakers from rolling the dice, though. General Motors sells the Buick
Regal Tours X, a US version of the Opel insignia wagon. GM used to sell in Europe
when it owned the Opel brand. Notably, the US version has the
same plastic cladding and slight lift, which is not seen
on the European version. But with a lower center of gravity,
it gives more sedan like driving dynamics and a lower roof for
easy rooftop access key features wagon buyers want in a car. There are several positive signs for wagon
fans elsewhere in the US if they have the cash. Much of the variety in the US wagon
market is found at the higher end, where luxury and high performance can
gloss over the otherwise dowdy and domestic image the wagon has. Given the fact that the countries with
some of the highest wagon sales are Germany and the Scandinavian nations. It makes sense that most of these
premium wagons are from German and Scandinavian automakers. The Swedish brand Volvo is perhaps the
brand best known for wagons, and its among the brands most committed to
the segment in the United States. Though Volvo has lately focused intensely
on building out its lineup of sport utility vehicles, a substantial portion
of its portfolio is still in wagons. I see the
same opportunities in us. So one part of me is a bit
confused that this should be much bigger. The volume should be
much, much, much bigger. But then we have the SUV trend in
the US that probably overlaps that kind of because could get the
space to an SUV. But I would say the wagons
are for me they’re beautiful. And I think you’ll see the cars here,
the size wise that are boxy anymore, and they are not boring. You get both. You get the driving capabilities
as a sedan and you get more space. And also it looks sporty
and that’s what we aim for. Volvo sells the mid-sized V60
wagon and the larger V90. Both can be bought in the cross
country trim, which means the car is lifted and comes with the familiar dark
cladding on the sides of the car. And Volvo also has a 415 horsepower
performance hybrid version of its V 60 bearing Volvos Polestar brand, which
was once its in-house performance shop and now specializes in
making high performance electric vehicles. Mercedes Benz sells its E-Class wagons
in the US, mostly to well-heeled buyers with families. The car sells especially
well in the Northeast. Wagon sales make up a tiny portion
of Mercedes US total zero point seven percent to be exact. But buyers are loyal and they pay an
E 450 for Madoc wagon starts at about sixty $66000 and the higher performance
AMG e63 S starts above one hundred eight thousand dollars. Fellow German automaker Audi said in August
of 2019, it plans to bring the R.S. Six a vaunt wagon to the US. The R.S. Six Avante
is a performance wagon. Audi will sell alongside the eight for
all road wagon it currently offers and the a six all road,
which Audi said in October. It will also be bringing
back to the US. In recent years in the United States, Audi
has only sold its a for all road wagon, which is also a
popular choice among premium wagon buyers. Even Porsche has a
wagon like vehicle. However, the number of wagon loving
diehards seems to be shrinking and many in the industry are not optimistic
that the wagon will make a comeback anytime soon. I just I wonder how many more cracks
at the bat we’re gonna get here from from this forbidden fruit. And these wagons
coming from overseas. So things are getting, you know, even
even slimmer for for a wagon enthusiast out there. And so guide the future for wagons. It’s going to be tough for for
future European wagons, too, to really come to United States. What buyers are more
likely to end up with is a crossover, which some say is really a
wagon in a slightly different form. There isn’t a lot of what I
would call pure wagon development going on right now. So, you know, with that
as a backdrop, the I guess prospects for the wagon
aren’t necessarily strong. But the caveat here is you’re getting
into then that, you know, blurring area where what is a
wagon and what’s a crossover? And a lot of the stuff that is
being developed is, you know, what I would argue is a shorter height twice vehicles
that that have kind of crossover style, but are probably
more like a wagon. Sport utility vehicles do seem to
have certain practical advantages over traditional passenger cars that consumers
seem to find irresistible. Most importantly, their taller height gives
drivers a better view of the road and often more
comfortable upright seating position. Customers also consider them easier to
get in and out of fuel. Economy has also improved on SUVs to
the point where they are often about as efficient as comparably
sized passenger cars. But their image as more rugged, sporty
and versatile vehicles has played a significant role in their appeal,
say many industry watchers. They have become so popular as family
vehicles that they may one day end up with the same reputation wagons
themselves earned over the decades. Practical but deeply uncool.

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