Back in 1984, Jeep introduced a smaller Cherokee model. The first Jeep with a unit body rather than a body on frame architecture, the 1984 Cherokee set the mold for the SUV boom that ran unabated through the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.
In the years that followed, the SUV, against all logic, became the most popular style of automobile in the U.S. Everywhere you looked there were lines and lines and lines of SUVs of all shapes and varieties—from compact SUVs like the Mazda Tribute to luxury suvs like the Cadillac Escalade, and gargantuan behemoths like the Ford Excursion, America went SUV crazy.
Auto manufacturers loved it because SUVs were held to the same lax safety and emissions standards as trucks. They were cheap to build and profit margins were huge. A tax loophole allowed business owners to purchase an SUV over 5000 pounds and write it off. Everything was in the SUV’s favor—until gas prices spiked and consumers realized they were buying trucks. This meant they were dealing with a rough ride, poor fuel economy, and what could only be termed as unresponsive handling. In fact, as many Ford Explorer owners discovered, SUVs were also quite dangerous. With their high center of gravity, they could roll over in emergency maneuvering situations.
In an effort to counter the sales backlash that resulted, manufacturers started basing SUV-type vehicles on their car platforms. After all, they reasoned, nobody was buying them to drive off road, so why build in off road capability? Suddenly, you could get an auto with the tall ride height and profile of an SUV. But, since it was based on a car, it drove like a car, got better fuel economy than a traditional SUV, and had the added bonus of being more comfortable as well.
Thus the “Crossover” SUV was born.