The 1990s were characterized by huge sales numbers for the midsize and full-size SUVs, but the tables have turned with the compact crossovers solidly leading the pack. While a few of the former big names make a respectable showing, they've stepped aside to give their smaller siblings the limelight. Below are the 10 best-selling crossovers and SUVs for March 2012.
1. Honda CR-V - 30,868, Up 35.3 Percent
Honda positively blew the competition out of the water with its March CR-V sales, totaling 30,868 for the month, more than 8000 units ahead of the next-closest Ford Escape. It appears consumers are liking the 2012 model's sportier, more attractive styling and competitive fuel economy.
2. Ford Escape - 22,697, Down 5.4 Percent
Despite being one of the oldest models on this list, and with an all-new model set to arrive in dealers any day now, the Escape was a solid contender in this month's sales race. Although down slightly, still selling this strong despite being a nearly decade-old design bodes well for consumer reception of the fresh new 2013 Escape.
3. Chevrolet Equinox - 20,064, Up 34.2 Percent
The Chevrolet Equinox is a tweener in this segment: not truly a compact nor a midsize player. But regardless of what you call it, more than 20,000 customers called it their own for March. Sales for the month are up a solid 34.2 percent, making it one of the biggest percentage gainers on this list for the month, behind only the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, and Honda's sales king CR-V.
4. Toyota RAV4 - 17,367, Up 8.0 Percent
The Toyota RAV4 has always been popular in the compact crossover segment, having arguably invented it in the mid-90s. But it's been pushed down a few notches by a surprisingly resurgent domestic competition, and Honda's stunningly successful new CR-V. With the current generation introduced for the 2006 model year, the RAV4 is due for an update soon.
5. Nissan Rogue - 16,972, Up 19.7 Percent
Nissan's Rogue was the second-best-selling line for the brand, behind only the phenomenally strong-selling Altima sedan. Although not the flashiest or fanciest contender in its segment, its combination of mini-Murano styling, plenty of options and features, and practicality have made it popular with customers.
6. Jeep Grand Cherokee - 14,069, Up 43 Percent
One of the midsize sales titans in the '90s SUV heyday, the Grand Cherokee remains one of the strongest sellers in the midsize segment. With features and specs that make it competitive with luxury models costing tens of thousands more, the Grand Cherokee straddles the territory between mainstream and luxury. But this broad bandwidth of trim levels and powertrains makes it hit the sweet spot for many consumers. The Jeep is up 43 percent for the month.
7. Ford Edge - 14,058, Up 13.5 Percent
Ford has kept the Edge sharp with the addition of its new-and-improved MyFord touch system, and an optional EcoBoost four-cylinder power train, giving it up to 30 mpg on the highway. If you're looking for a more aggressive style, the Edge Sport delivers it rolling on massive 22-inch wheels. The broad selection of choices in the Edge lineup have made it an enduring success for Ford.
8. Ford Explorer - 13,212, Up 5.8 Percent
Practically the poster child for the mid-90s midsize SUV dominance, the Explorer is no longer the sales behemoth it once was, but consumers are warming to this radical change for the line from its former truckish, body-on-frame form. Ford has since added a four-cylinder EcoBoost option, and just announced the availability of the EcoBoost V-6-powered Explorer Sport, so the added variety will likely help expand its popularity.
9. Jeep Wrangler - 12,557, Up 43 Percent
The original and, some would argue, still the best. Certainly for off-roading. What the Wrangler lacks in on-road refinement and manners, it makes up for in mountain goat-like off-road agility and capability. The addition of the excellent Pentastar V-6 for 2012 addressed one of the key shortcomings of the JK Wrangler, namely its underwhelming, inefficient powerplant. It matches its city-slicker cousin, the Grand Cherokee, for biggest percentage gains for the month, at 43 percent.
10. Toyota Highlander - 11,044, Up 12.4 Percent
The Toyota Highlander is the safe choice for the midsize SUV segment, offering a broad range of trims, drive trains and seating configurations for every need. Pricing starts in the high 20s for the four-cylinder front-drive model, and up to more than $44,000 for the Hybrid Limited model. This wide variety of choices helped it hang on to the number 10 spot for March.