Gas prices have been affordably low for some time now, giving aid to the rise in popularity of large vehicles, particularly sport utes.
As prices dropped, the efforts to make small cars appealing almost seemed like wasted time and energy. However, despite the fact that pump prices are still pretty low, there’s at least one small vehicle that’s enjoying a nice sales run in recent months: the 2021 Hyundai Venue.
Introduced in 2019, the new Venue got off to a sluggish start – unsurprisingly. Nearly all new small vehicles struggle to gain traction among the Palisades, Explorers and Yukons patrolling the streets. However, Hyundai’s reporting the sales for the little Venue have been up for some time now.
The little ute that can
Touting it as “right-sized” and “FUNctional,” the Venue’s enjoyed four straight months of growing sales. The first two months aren’t apt comparisons because it didn’t hit the U.S. until November 2019 when it sold 290 units, including a 45.2% jump this year. Venue sales rose 52.4% last month compared with year-ago figures. Sales jumped 36.1% in January.
Overall, Hyundai’s now-complete line-up of SUVs enjoyed a strong February, sales rising 8% last month. But it’s the littlest model, if you will that appears to be gaining all the attention. Venue is packed with standard safety and technology conveniences not typically found in vehicles of similar class, officials contend.
“As consumers faced personal transportation needs due to the pandemic, reliability and technology-rich vehicles drove appeal,” said Olabisi Boyle, vice president, Product Planning and Mobility Strategy, Hyundai Motor North America. “The Venue is feature packed, fuel-efficient and backed by the industry’s best warranty.”
When Hyundai debuted in Venue in April 2019, it was targeted at a specific audience: younger millennials, who may be in the market for their first vehicle and couldn’t afford a larger SUV, but still wanted a utility vehicle.
“About one-third of (used car) buyers started out looking for a new vehicle but couldn’t afford it,” said Brian Smith, Hyundai Motor America’s chief operating officer, during the Venue’s NYIAS debut almost two years ago. “That’s a perfect opportunity for a vehicle like this.”
However, like many other vehicles before it, the Scion xB and Honda Element leap to mind, it’s not the younger crowd leading the charge. According to Hyundai, 66% of purchasers are women and more than 40% include millennials and Gen X. It’s a wide cross-section of buyers looking at the Venue, including African-American and Hispanic buyers, who comprise 11% and 16% of sales, respectively.
Competitors report mixed results
Hyundai isn’t the only automaker seeing sales of its small utes on the rise. Its corporate sibling, the Kia Seltos, enjoyed an even stronger sales surge last month, rising 89.1%. It should be noted that the Seltos only began sales in January 2019 so the comparisons are a bit skewed.
Back on Planet Earth, Honda’s CR-V was up 7% in February and basically flat in January for a 3.2% increase year to date. Nissan reported sales of its Kicks small ute were up 45.9% in Q4 2020, finishing the year up 1.1 percent. Toyota’s CH-R struggled to a small gain of 0.2% in the final quarter of 2020, and it was down 12.3% overall for the full year last year.
Unfortunately, the sales sun shines only on non-U.S. models as the Ford EcoSport, the company entry-level ute, saw sales slide 36.8% in February. Last month’s numbers wiped out a 2.8% jump in January, pushing year-to-date to a decline of 19.8%. Meanwhile the Chevy Trax, slide 21% during the final quarter of 2020 and 9% for the full year.