May 2013 brought some big shifts in the volume players in the SUV segment. While it's a given that the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape will duke it out for first place among SUVs, further down the list, there were some major upsets.
The Nissan Rogue, which placed eighth last month, surged to fifth in May, up a blockbuster 44.7 percent, the biggest percentage gain of any model this month. This put it less than 3000 units behind the Toyota RAV4, which came in fourth, just behind the Chevy Equinox, which comes in a reliable third.
The Explorer Topped the Grand Cherokee for May, with the Wrangler coming in just below the Ford, and a few hundred units above its plush stablemate. The Ford Edge and Honda Pilot switch places at the bottom of the list, and the Toyota Highlander missed making the top 10 cut by only a few hundred units.
1) Ford Escape - 29,123, Up 26.2 Percent
Ford's perennial favorite compact SUV stole the crown from Honda for May, eking out a 1825-unit lead for the month. The broad selection of different powertrains and trims on the Escape stands in contrast to Honda's one-powertrain, few trims strategy, but it paid off for this month.
2) Honda CR-V - 27,298, Up 8.4 Percent
The CR-V has been the one to beat for most of the last two years in SUV sales, and Ford pulled off a win for this month. But it's a constant back-and-forth horse race between these two, and Honda's bound to pull ahead again before the end of the year. The CR-V will likely get a powertrain within the next few years, mirroring the changes on the Accord, with an Earth Dreams direct-injected engine upgrade, likely mated to a CVT.
3) Chevrolet Equinox - 22,918, Up 13.2 Percent
As expected, the Equinox came in a solid third, and with a double-digit gain for the month, it was Chevrolet's third-best-selling model behind the Silverado and Cruze compact sedan. It's second-row room, and choice between an economical I-4 or a muscular V-6 continue to make it a hit with customers.
4) Toyota RAV4 - 20,780, Up 8.0 Percent
With its major redesign for 2013, Toyota was clearly aiming for the CR-V, but it still has a little ways to go to threaten Honda's dominance of the segment. With generous cargo and passenger room and competitive fuel economy, the RAV4 has the basics covered, but has lost its street cred with leadfoots, since the discontinuation of the powerful V-6 model.
5) Nissan Rogue - 17,333, Up 44.7 Percent
The Rogue has been a solid performer for Nissan throughout much of 2012 and 2013, and has frequently been on the top 10 list, but May's performance is one of its best yet, surging to fifth place, and eclipsing the sales of all the midsize models in the segment. Not as fresh as it was when it debuted in 2008, some running updates have kept it a contender on consumers' shopping lists.
6) Ford Explorer - 16,861 Up 15 Percent
The Explorer may have been humbled by the Rogue by a few hundred units for May, but it still was the midsize leader, coming out ahead of both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the rugged and ready Wrangler. The Explorer's broad bandwidth from basic to the hot-rod Sport model, offers a trim for nearly every taste and budget in the segment.
7) Jeep Wrangler - 16,272, Up 13 Percent
The Wrangler continues to confound those that claim the old-school off-roading SUV is dead. The addition of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited in 2007 was a stroke of genius, and a major contributor to the model's popularity, adding a great deal more practicality where the small two-door Wrangler falls short.
8) Jeep Grand Cherokee - 16,034, Up 21 Percent
The redesigned 2014 Grand Cherokee is starting to trickle into dealerships and into customers' hands, and the response has been favorable, if the Grand Cherokee's 21 percent gain for the month is anything to go by. The addition of the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel later in the year will give it an additional competitive advantage, and a few more sales.
9) Ford Edge - 13,501, Up 14.9 Percent
Ford's two-row crossover continues to deliver for Ford. For those that find the Escape too small, and the Explorer too big, the Edge is the "just right" balance of practicality and size. A mid-cycle refresh coming soon promises to keep things interesting for the Edge.
10) Honda Pilot - 11,963, Up 11.3 Percent
Honda outsold Toyota in both the compact and midsize segments in May, with the CR-V taking its customary top-two place, and the Pilot edging out the Highlander to round out this month's top 10 list. The excellent 2014 Acura MDX bodes well for a next-generation Pilot, which will likely have substantial improvements in fuel economy, room and refinement.