Engineering Crossovers

According to Autodata, for 2017, the number of cars of all shapes and price points sold in the U.S. was 6,332,925.

According to Autodata, for 2017, the number of cars of all shapes and price points sold in the U.S. was 6,332,925. Clearly a big number.

But the firm also calculated that the number of SUVs and crossovers sold was 7,142,851. A bigger number.

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And while there are reports of various sedans not being renewed, when it comes to SUVs and crossovers, there is nothing but news of new ones coming.

Clearly, the auto industry is meeting the seemingly insatiable demand among U.S. consumers (although this is reportedly a global phenomenon) for these non-car vehicles.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Consider General Motors’ 2017 U.S. Sales, minus the pickup trucks. The Buick Encore (88,035) and Enclave (48,564) were Buick’s biggest selling vehicles. At Cadillac the XT5 (68,312) was completely dominant. It outsold all of the Cadillac cars combined (50,278).

At Chevy, the number-one non-truck was the Equinox, with 290,458 units. And at GMC, the Acadia accounted for 111,276 units, with the Terrain coming in second place at 85,441 (again, not taking the Sierra into account).

All of these combined sums to 742,364 units, which is greater than the sales in the U.S. of some companies in 2017 (e.g., Hyundai at 685,555; VW at 569,687).

So to get some insights into how crossovers are engineered at General Motors, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we talked with Rick Spina, executive chief engineer for compact and crossover SUVs at General Motors. Which means that he has the engineering lead for most of those aforementioned vehicles.

And he brought a new 2018 Buick Enclave to the studio, which is part of the discussion.

Spina says that one of the things they’re really concentrating on in the development of crossovers is to reduce weight wherever they can without sacrificing anything in the way of quality, reliability or durability. In the case of the Enclave, for example, they’ve managed to reduce weight compared to the outgoing model by approximately 300 pounds (the base 2018 has a curb weight of 4,358 pounds; the base 2017 model is 4,724 pounds).

Spina discusses various aspects of the challenges (and opportunities) faced when developing crossovers with Autoline’s John McElroy, James Amend of WardsAuto.com, and me on the show.

Then the three of us discuss the news of the past week, with particular focus on the 2017 sales numbers. Which show, of course, that there were a whole lot of crossovers sold in 2017.

And you can see it here.