The story of the last several months in the SUV segment has been the neck-and-neck sales battle between the Honda CR-V and new 2013 Ford Escape. The Escape has been in the lead for several of the past few months, but Honda finally got the lead once again, but by a slim margin of fewer than 400 units.
The other noteworthy development for October is the normalization of percentage gains for Toyota once again, now that production has ramped up to pre-earthquake levels. After multiple months of double-digit growth for its popular RAV4, the model showed a modest October gain. Finally, the on-again/off-again Kia Sorento is now back on the top 10 list, outselling the Toyota Highlander for the month to take the number eight spot, and the Honda Pilot taking 10th place.
Jeep, despite rumors that it's packing up and moving to China, still showed solid gains for the month, with the Wrangler in particular showing a strong October performance, up 14 percent.
1. Honda CR-V - 20,205, Up 4.5 Percent
After several months of the Ford Escape taking the SUV sales lead, Honda bounced back to edge out its Blue Oval rival by a scant 373 units. This is definitely the SUV sales rivalry to watch in the months ahead.
2. Ford Escape - 19,832, Up 4.1 Percent
Possibly hurt by the multiple recalls issued on the all-new model, the 2013 Escape fell slightly behind the Honda CR-V for October. But for all intents and purposes, the two models are in a neck-and-neck sales race. Strategically, the Ford offers more variety in powertrains, trims and configurations than the Honda, potentially helping it in the months ahead, but there's no question the Honda CR-V is a sales force to be reckoned with.
3. Chevrolet Equinox - 15,387, Up 1.8 Percent
The October gain for the Equinox may be modest, but it's still a solid number three for the month, out-pacing the Toyota RAV4 in overall volume once again. The Equinox's solid feel and choice of an economical four-cylinder or powerful V-6 continues to win over buyers, and the MyLink interface is a solid effort by GM in the realm of multimedia interfaces. Year-to-date sales are up 13.8 percent.
4. Ford Explorer - 13,538, Up 12.9 Percent
The Explorer continues to be a solid performer for Ford, offering those customers needing seven-passenger flexibility the choice of three powertrains and trim levels ranging from well-equipped to downright luxurious. The newly introduced Sport model brings 365 turbocharged horses to the party, showing practicality and performance don't have to be mutually exclusive in a three-row SUV.
5. Jeep Grand Cherokee - 11,919, Up 8 Percent
The Grand Cherokee's combination of a premium feel at a budget price continues to attract SUV shoppers who want Jeep's renowned off-road capability as well as 6000-plus-pound towing capacity in a reasonably sized package. With a 50-state turbodiesel option coming in early calendar 2014, it will be interesting to see how much the new engine option will add to the Grand's sales totals.
6. Jeep Wrangler - 11,310, Up 14 Percent
One of the two "pillar" models for Jeep, the Wrangler continues to confound those who think its more than half-century-old formula is obsolete. The continued addition of new trim levels, as well as availability in two-door and four-door Unlimited configurations, keep attracting customers to its rugged mystique.
7. Toyota RAV4 - 10,936, Up 2.4 Percent
After an eye-popping 80-percent gain for September, the RAV4's modest 1.8-percent growth for October may look disappointing, but in reality, it's more a normalization in sales than a major drop-off. Even with its much-quieter sales performance for the month, the RAV4 is still up 35.9 percent year-over-year. With an all-new model just around the corner, expect sales to surge once the new model reaches showrooms.
8. Kia Sorento - 9615, Down 5.5 Percent
The Sorento has been a periodic contender on our SUV top-10 list, and it's back on the board for October, edging out the Toyota Highlander by more than 700 units. A new model based on the recently redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe is expected soon, and will probably share an assembly line, as the new Santa Fe is built at Kia's plant in West Point, Georgia.
9. Toyota Highlander - 8909, Up 11 Percent
Toyota's midsize SUV came in ninth for October, same as in September, but overall volume and percentage growth cooled considerably for the model. Even compared with the recently redesigned 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, the Highlander holds the edge in fuel economy by offering a four-cylinder as well as a hybrid powertrain option. Although the new Pathfinder is starting to register on the sales radar, it's nowhere near top-10 territory yet.
10. Honda Pilot - 8828, Down 29.2 Percent
Despite being down a significant 29.2 percent over October 2011, the Pilot still outsold the Nissan Rogue and Ford Edge, two models that have frequently appeared on our top-10 lists in 2012. Incremental trim and equipment updates, which include a standard rearview camera and Bluetooth hands-free calling on the 2013 model, keep this model a solid contender in the three-row class.