Big auto makers are using this week's Frankfurt auto show to launch a new generation of sport utility vehicles aimed at consumers from Shanghai to San Jose who are paying premium prices to ride tall.
Sport utility vehicles started out as a distinctively American automotive idea, starting with World War II Jeeps and evolving into the hulking, gas guzzling trucks that dominated U.S. highways during the late 1990s. During the past decade, SUVs evolved from modified pickup trucks into modified cars, but many kept the boxy, utilitarian profiles of the originals.
Now, auto makers are experimenting with the formula again, looking to cash in with SUVs that are small, sleekly aerodynamic and, in most cases, more profitable than the sedans that share their mechanical underpinnings.
The only common denominator defining the new generation of SUVs is "you sit up high, in a command seating position, that makes you feel superior," says Ford Motor Co. F -0.06% group vice president of design J Mayswhose company led the 1990s SUV boom in the U.S. with its comparatively large Explorer and Expedition models.