Opinion: U.S. Automakers Need to Give Wagons a Second Chance
Everyone forgot about the affordable wagonby Robert Moore, on
It’s blatantly obvious that SUVs are viewed as the greatest thing since toilet paper. They seem to dominate every parking in a 4:1 ratio to cars, if not worse. It’s so bad that automakers like Ford, among others, have decided to nix almost every car it sells here in favor of SUVs. But, do you remember or even know why SUVs are so popular today? Well, there’s a long story to be told, and I believe that automakers have forgotten a big contender that deserves a comeback: The Station Wagon.
SUVs Got Popular Was Gas Prices Dropped
In the early 2000s, gas prices skyrocketed and getting from A to B, for most people, was an exercise in efficiency.
People across the country traded in their big trucks and SUVs for cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevy Cavalier (or Cruze), among others.
The desire to get the most out of every gallon; an overwhelming itch to attain 40 mpg minimum, hit the general population like heroin hit the ghetto in the 1970s and 1980s. Suddenly, it was more about saving every last penny on gas because you were forced to make the decision between eating dinner and filling your tank.
When gas prices dropped, however, the creatures of nature that we are started gravitating toward larger, less-efficient vehicles because we could suddenly afford to drive them again. The underlying cause of this migration to the bigger side is up for debate – maybe we Americans just like big cars. Maybe it’s a status symbol to drive a ferocious SUV over a “wimpy” Honda Civic. Maybe we only give a damn about efficiency and fuel consumption when we can’t afford to keep our tank full. This is really a conversation for another time. The point is that, seemingly overnight, SUVs and pickups became even more popular than they once were, hitting the car market so hard that automakers have decided to cut back on sedan and coupe sales immensely.
The station wagon, for all intents and purposes, had already died off – much like the minivan and conversion van – by the time this fuel crisis hit.
So, outside of a few stragglers here and there, the only options to go for if you want a for big, fuel-hungry vehicle rich in cargo room and ride height was one of the various SUVs or Pickups on the market. And, that’s exactly what we did. Pickups have become daily drivers instead of workhorses and SUVs are now considered family cars, much like sedans were way back when.
This raises a big question in my head – what if there were more affordable wagons on the market?
Affordable Wagons Could Be More Popular If They Were Available
Could station wagons actually take a bigger chunk of the pie and maybe even cause SUV sales to drop a big?
When Gas prices dropped, there were plenty of SUVs available, but the same can’t be said for station wagons.
In fact, as of the time of this writing, there are only 10 wagons on the market, and only one of those wagons are built by an American company, and most of the others are of the premium variety. Here’s the shortlist:
- Jaguar XF Sportbrake
- Ferrari GTC4Lusso
- Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
- Mercedes E-Class Estate
- Volvo V90
- Audi A4 Allroad
- Volvo V60
- Buick Regal TourX
- Subaru Outback
- Mini Clubman (I don’t consider this a wagon but, we’ll count it anyway)
Of course, this list was a little longer not that long ago, but Volkswagen decided to kill off the Golf Sportwagen and Alltrack to make room for more SUVs. I know what you’re thinking – obviously, they didn’t sell well enough, so my point is moot. Sorry; but that’s not the case. The Golf Sportwagen and Alltrack didn’t sell well because Americans aren’t really fans of Volkswagen – they are, generally, too expensive for what they offer. It’s the exact reason VW had to ax the Touareg. Sad but true. And, besides that, my point is that we need more American-built station wagons to help offset the ungodly number of SUVs being pumped out by Ford and GM.
If you look at the list of wagons currently available in the United States, you’ll notice one thing – most of them aren’t affordable on a median salary.
Sure, you can get a Mini Clubman for around $25,000 or a Subaru outback for a similar price. And, the Regal TourX commands just under $30,000, but beyond that, things get expensive. Subaru has its own fan base, and are seemingly forgotten about by the general population. It’s the same story for Mini. I, for example, wouldn’t own a mini to save my life. The Regal TourX sells better than Buick expected (official sales numbers unknown as of the time of this writing), but I don’t really see a lot of Buicks on the road either.
The point is that I would like to see Chevy and Ford re-introduce an affordable wagon. They provide as much cargo space as SUVs, can be just as efficient, and can be pretty damn cool looking too. If they were to add a couple of $25,000 base model wagons to the lineup and offer them with more premium trim packages they just might sell. Unless, of course, we only buy SUVs because we like the utility and go-anywhere nature because so many crossovers and SUVs are that capable. Oh… wait.
Read our full review on the 2020 Subaru Outback.
Read our full review on the 2018 Buick Regal TourX.
Read our full review on the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake.