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New car marketUsed CarConferenceNewsNew car newsAMRecruitmentIndexNews digestShowroomBy Jay Nagley, Redspy AutomotiveIf there is one figure which jumps out of Septem-ber's sales figures, it is the leap in the market share of the off-road, or SUV, segment. Between September 2010 and September 2011, off-roaders increased market share by 0.8 per-centage points. SUVs are now only fractionally behind city cars on overall penetration - 8.4% v. 8.6% YTD. At this rate, the off-road segment could end 2011 as Britain's third largest segment, behind only lower medium and supermini. Considering that SUVs were seen a few years ago as the embodiment of the then economic boom - pretty well bling on wheels - it seems a bit odd that they are doing even better in these recessionary times. In fact, there is a suggestion that the segment may actually be growing because of the recession. There is anecdotal evidence that some families are trading in two smaller cars for one SUV or MPV that can fulfil all family duties. In fact the dividing line between SUV and MPV is blurring: MPVs are becoming more stylish while SUVs are getting less 4WD oriented. The proportion of off-roaders with front-drive-only has risen from 1.8% in 2008 to 15.2% YTD 2011. The other great boost to the SUV market has come from two bad winters. In the depths of the cold spell last December, dealers reported desperate motorists arriving in their showrooms and refusing to leave until they had the keys to a 4x4. The chances of three bad winters in a row may be statistically quite low, but it is a risk many seem determined to avoid. The interesting thing about the current SUV boom is that it is not simply the modestly priced models which are benefiting. The segment's patriarch, the third-generation Range Rover, is now approaching its 10th birthday and will finish 2011 with its best sales figures since 2007. The equally old Volvo XC90 actually had its best ever year in 2010. However, last word has to go to the Kia Sportage. It is now the fourth best-selling SUV in the UK, having overtaken the VW Tiguan, and it is now only behind the Freelander, CR-V and Kuga. A Korean model is going head-to-head with traditional brands in one of the most fashion-conscious segments of the market: that is a scary sight if you are a manufacturer based in Europe or Japan. The new family car is an SUV67891011%52008200920102011City carUpper-mediumCompact executiveO-roadSegment share year-to-dateKia Sportage is the fourth best-selling SUV(Data: SMMT)

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