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B.C. SUV sales surge during COVID-19 pandemic

Last Updated May 3, 2021 at 10:55 pm PDT

FILE -- This photo provided by Fiat Chrysler shows the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve. Fiat Chrysler unveiled the Grand Cherokee L on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 and said production would start by the end of March. The company invested $1.6 billion to revamp two old engine plants so they could build new versions of the popular SUV. (Fiat Chrysler via AP)

As people forego flights, international comfort they are spending more on their vehicles

The appeal of more space, all-wheel-drive account for the popularity of SUVs as people take more road trips

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — New research from a B.C.-based online car buying platform shows SUVs have been the most popular choice in this province over the last six months, and the pandemic seems to be driving this trend.

Data from Canada Drives show SUVs accounted for 37 per cent of purchases, while about 13 per cent were hatchbacks.

Cody Green, founder and co-CEO, says the calculus of car buying has changed due to COVID-19.

“The reasons they’re buying cars are a little bit different and have shifted. There’s a bunch of people that have travel budgets that they didn’t spend, or that they don’t anticipate being able to spend,” he explains.

“These are budgets that might have been that trip to Mexico, and that’s money they’re willing to put into an SUV. Especially when when they think, ‘Hey, this summer, my trip is probably going to be somewhere that I need to drive to, so whether it’s just me and my partner or whether it’s me and my whole family — that extra space, I have that budget to put towards it.'”

Being able to drive around B.C. during a winter when health officials were advising against heading off to sun destinations may have also contributed to the popularity of these vehicles.

“With SUVs and Canadian winters, especially when you get outside of the Lower Mainland, you’re getting all wheel drive and four wheel drive almost as a standard option,” he says.

“I’d say over 90 per cent of SUVs are getting sold with that option on them. So, for Canadian winters, that’s a huge asset.”

And today’s SUVs aren’t necessarily gigantic gas-guzzlers.

“With the compact SUVs and the crossovers, you’re getting a lot more comparable fuel economy to a car but also getting that added space,” he says, adding more car manufacturers are offering hybrid and electric models.

Green says the pandemic has also contributed to an uptick in online purchasing, which has been a boon for his business.

“The appeal of going into a dealership full of people and then maybe having a test drive with a salesman in the passenger seat isn’t as exciting as maybe it once was.”