WHO SAYS TRENDS START ON THE two coasts and wind their hip paths inland? In Dallas, we were SUV when SUV wasn’t cool.
“The rest of the country is just catching the SUV craze,” explains Craig Eppling, manager of Southern communications for Chevrolet. “But Suburban was the first SUV, and it’s been big in Texas for 63 years.”
Today, while families across the rest of the nation finally pile out of their mini-vans and into new 4x4s, they’re learning what truck-loving North Texans have known for decades: Bigger is better.
Local SUV salesmen would agree. SUV sales here, they say, continue to dominate the national market. For example, 23 percent of all Chevy Suburbans, which are the best-selling full-size SUVs nationally, are currently sold in Texas. This fall, Sewell GMC in Dallas became the No. I GMC SUV retailer in the nation, selling more Suburbans and Yukons than any other dealership. And executives with Ford Motor Company, which produces the No. 1 compact SUV, the Explorer, noted at this year’s State Fair that its full-size Expedition was “made for Texas, where it outsells Tahoe and Suburban.”
While some may argue that the wide open spaces of Texas account for our big-car desires (just try to park your Yukon on Beacon Hill), experts credit the booming SUV market here to the buying power of one particular market segment: the soccer mom.
Chip Besio, Sewell Motor Company’s director of marketing, says the explanation is simple: “Minivans don’t carry enough kids. We sell mostly to moms for carpool.”
While these moms admit that size does matter, and bigger is better–“I can fit seven people in my Discovery, all with seat belts,” gloats one carpool queen with two kids in private schools and two in public schools-other equally important factors figure into the decision to go SUV, Like safety. “You have a tremendous amount of visibility,” says a Suburban-driving mother of two. And durability. “My Suburban can take my kids’ abuse,” says a mother of three.
And, you can’t forget flexibility. After all, while SUVs can handle a family’s rough-and-ready lifestyle, many, including the Range Rover and the Lexus LX450, and even the Suburban, fall definitively into the category of luxury vehicles. Newer-model SUVs are as welcome in The Mansion parking lot as they are in the public school carpool line.
And that may be the bottom line: Dallasites love luxury. SUVs are cool.