The "post-SUV" is coming. Sounds an awful lot like a station wagon to us.
Kia design boss Karim Habib was recently quizzed by Autocar on the future of SUVs and told the British publication that he thinks "the post-SUV is coming." He feels that the market's fascination with SUVs may have come from people's boredom with MPVs, and now that seems to be the notion buyers are finding with SUVs. In addition to a changing customer base, a greater focus on aerodynamic efficiency is causing designers to rethink the idea of a tall, two-box vehicle that almost never goes off-road.
"SUVs were maybe a learning from people driving [MPVs] and being tired of it," said Habib, adding that Kia "will try different things. I do think there are more efficient ways of doing space."
This assertion mirrors that of several automakers who feel that the SUV obsession may be waning. SUVs don't stand out as premium anymore, and other body styles can better them - possible considerations in why neither Bugatti nor Rimac will go that route for at least the next decade.
There are several benefits to lower cars over SUVs, but most of the market has simply gone with the trends. Genesis is a notable exception, saying numerous buyers still want a lower three-box vehicle. Similarly, Volvo has said that it is looking into the idea of reinventing the station wagon. With no need for transmission tunnels and other ICE powertrain components, future cars could offer the same space and comfort of a crossover without the drawbacks of that body style.
And manufacturers are not imagining an increasing need for non-SUVs - buyers are starting to move on too. Last month, we learned that the popularity of SUVs and crossovers among buyers of new vehicles was dropping for the first time in two decades.
Kia is not abandoning SUVs or crossovers, but it is exploring other types of cars. So will Kia build a wagon or something different?
"I personally believe that you can do really cool vans," said Habib, noting the Carnival as an example of a traditional van that still looks pretty "cool" and "desirable." So are vans the way forward after SUVs? Not necessarily.
"Technological progress needs to be visible," said Habib. "If the SUV doesn't manage to show that, it's not going to survive. If we manage to create vehicles that are SUVs that do feel like they progress, I think they're going to survive."
Basically, it sounds like designers are not quite sure what future buyers will want exactly. Still, there is reemerging interest in vehicles that are not unnecessarily lifted, and new design freedoms are making it possible to package space, performance, range, and comfort inside smaller footprints. Unless SUVs show notable advantages, lower-roofed cars could replace them.
Our grandparents drove station wagons, our parents drove MPVs, and we drive SUVs and crossovers; will we go full circle? We think it would be a smart call.