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Sport-Utility Field Is Still Sprouting Offshoots

January 02, 2002

There are, by most industry counts, 55 sport-utility vehicle models available in the U.S. today and 18 more in the wings.

Citing concerns about size, safety and fuel inefficiency, some critics say that's 73 SUV models too many.

But now at least two more are on the way: Toyota Motor Corp. announced recently that its Lexus division will introduce the mid-size GX 470 next January, giving it three luxury SUVs, and Honda Motor Co. said its American subsidiary will roll out a new full-size model this summer, the Pilot.

For those who fret about SUV proliferation, Honda is getting rid of the Passport, a re-badged Isuzu that barely sells, so it still will have only two SUVs. But the net result of the announcements is that we're up to 74 models.

The reason? SUVs are highly profitable and auto makers aren't known for restraint. They'll keep building SUVs as long as customers keep waving money at them. And there are a lot of SUV buyers out there.

Sales through November were up 12.1% from the first 11 months of 2000 and, at 3.6 million units, accounted for 22.6% of all passenger vehicle sales in the country.

--John O'Dell

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