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Cain’s Segments August 2014: Full-Size SUVs

 GM’s market share in the full-size, truck-based SUV segment grew to 82.9% in August 2014 as the company’s four candidates grabbed the four top spots in the category. Not unpredictably, Ford Expedition sales declined as we approach the arrival of a revamped 2015 Expedition with EcoBoost V6 power, further enabling GM’s quest for world domination.
Or American domination. Domination in a specific vehicle category. In a category which, while expanding in comparison to the recent past, simply doesn’t amount to what it once did.

That’s not to say GM’s four full-size Chevy and GMC SUVs form a low-volume quartet. The Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, and Yukon XL were responsible for 8.1% of the volume generated by America’s largest seller of new vehicles in August.

So far this year, they’ve managed to outsell all but three premium brands: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus. 7.7% of the new vehicles sold by GM so far this year have been Enclaves, Encores, LaCrosses, Regals, and Veranos, Buicks all. 7.4% have been Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and Yukon XLs.

In other words, these big SUVs play an important role in GM’s generation of sales in the company’s home market, and an essential role in GM’s generation of profit. We haven’t even taken into consideration the most costly SUVs that ride on the platform. Cadillac sold 2277 Escalades and 1257 Escalade ESVs in August, 89% and 64% year-over-year gains, respectively. Total Escalade sales, defunct EXT included, are up 21% to 17,884 in 2014.

August 2014
August 2013
% Change
8 mos. 2014
8 mos. 2013
% Change
Chevrolet Suburban
5,748 4,003 43.6% 34,487 31,847 8.3%
Chevrolet Tahoe
8,216 6,818 20.5% 64,837 54,794 18.3%
Ford Expedition
2,623 3,176 -17.4% 29,093 23,661 23.0%
GMC Yukon
4,715 2,345 101.1% 27,458 17,240 59.3%
GMC Yukon XL
3,319 2,779 19.4% 19,763 20,626 -4.2%
Nissan Armada
1,006 1,114 -9.7% 8,411 9,601 -12.4%
Toyota Sequoia
913 1,280 -28.7% 7,814 9,045 -13.6%
21,515 23.4% 191,863 166,814 15.0%

Even the so-called volume brand sport-utilities we’re discussing in this space can be viewed on dealer lots with frighteningly Cadillac-like MSRPs. (There’s no denying that with 21,998 sales between the GM products alone, they’re still volume vehicles, regardless of price. The Tahoe is America’s 20th-best-selling SUV/crossover, behind the Lexus RX and two-wheel-bases-included Hyundai Santa Fe, but ahead of the Dodge Journey and Jeep Patriot.)

The true premium brand contenders from Cadillac, Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, for example, combine to sell approximately once for every three copies of these seven contenders.

Two of these contenders, however, sell less often than a number of the higher-end full-size SUVs. Sales of Nissan’s ancient Armada are down 12% to just 8411 units in 2014, just 4.4% of the segment. Toyota Sequoia sales are down even more sharply, falling 14% to just 7814 units during a period in which sales of its refreshed Tundra pickup stablemate have jumped 10% to 80,133.

Both Toyota and Nissan do a better job of selling higher-priced utility vehicles when they sell them through their Lexus and Infiniti outlets. Lexus GX sales, for instance are up 127% to 14,429 in 2014 – Lexus is on pace for its best GX sales year since 2007. (The RX is America’s top-selling premium brand utility vehicle, although its base price actually places the RX a few thousand dollars below the Sequoia.)

Infiniti QX80 sales have risen slightly, just 2%, to a near-Armada-like level of 8119 units in 2014. Infiniti generates more than a quarter of its volume with the Pathfinder-based QX60, formerly the JX.

Obviously those numbers pale in comparison to the figures achieved by GM’s full-size SUVs. And if you think these GM numbers are large, stretch your mind back to 2002 when General Motors sold more than 67,000 Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and Yukon XLs in America during the month of August alone.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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