Why Station Wagons Are More Popular In Europe Than America

Why Station Wagons Are More Popular In Europe Than America

Wagons away Hi, I’m Jack Smith and right now,
it’s station wagon savings time in the west. Time to hit the trail in high
style with all a will comfort, but only a Rambler station
wagon can give you. The station wagon was once a
fixture of American family life. It was a common sight in
American garages and frequently featured in popular culture. These days, however, it has
nearly vanished from US roads. Americans, at least most of them,
just don’t like the segment. And it shows in the tiny number
of wagons sold every year, Americans just don’t like wagons
for whatever reason. We we have rejected the
body style for many years. It’s been declining. You know, we think
back to perhaps some of those movies like National Lampoon’s Vacation, where
a family travels across the country in a wagon. Those days
are long, long behind us. And these days, wagon sales are less
than 2 percent of all industry sales. Meanwhile, crossovers and sport utility
vehicles continue to swallow market share, leading many manufacturers to
believe that if they want to sell a wagon, they need to lift it
a bit, maybe cover it with some cladding and call it a crossover. You want the crossover tag associated
with it because that’s what people are buying and that’s what
they want to buy. At some point, they may want another
tag because it’s no longer cool to own a crossover, an SUV. But right now, that’s
not the case yet. In 2018, consumers around the
world bought just under 2.5 million wagons, roughly a mere 3 percent
of all new cars sold in the United States the segment represents only about
1 to 2 percent of all sales. But in some European countries,
sales are several times that. Wagon’s represented nearly 20 percent of all
sales in Germany and at least a quarter of sales in some
Scandinavian countries, such as Finland and Sweden. wagons also comprised 23 percent
of all sales in Czech Republic, 16 percent in Slovakia and
15 percent in Poland. In Sweden our home country, close to
50 percent of our volume is related to wagons. You have the best residual
values, you have the most loyal consumers. And also that is how
we were live in Sweden. You know, nature is very important. We do exactly in line with Americans. You know, it’s a lot of football and
a lot of sports associated with our kids. So we need a space. And so the legacy of wagons
is really in our DNA. Also you see them all over the place
and the roads in Sweden and in Europe. More than 70 percent of all wagon’s
sold in the world are sold in Europe. There the wagon is still seen
as an efficient blend of function and performance, especially when fuel
prices can be quite high. In Europe, the station wagon
continues to be the prototype for many families, even though
it they have lost traction as well in Europe. Despite the fact
that Europe is the world’s wagon stronghold, data do suggest that sport
utilities are eating into its share on that continent as well. Of course, on the other end of
the spectrum, US data show that sport utility vehicles have completely eclipsed the
wagon as the family hauler of choice. Wagons have steadily lost share
in the US new car market from 3.69 percent of new car sales
in 2008 to 1.4 percent in 2018. Cross-overs and SUVs grew their share of the
new car market in the US by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018. They now make up nearly half
of all new car sales. For now, wagons have managed to find a
way to keep a foothold, albeit a small one in America. For example, the segment straddling Subaru
Outback has been a tremendously successful product for that company
part wagon, part crossover. The Outback was introduced in the 1995
model year as a variant of the Subaru legacy, but was soon spun out
into its own distinct brand and has become something of a phenomenon. The outback alone accounted for the vast
majority of wagon sales in the US. Of that, 1.4 percent of the US market wagons have
the outback alone makes up 1.2 percent. In other words,
almost all of it. That means all wagons sold by all
other brands combined would account for just 0.2 percent of the total
US new car market. So when we talk about wagons,
we’re essentially talking about one model with with a very decent industry share
and then a handful of other models that, quite frankly, don’t
sell very well. The outback is an example of how
wagon like vehicles can be successfully marketed in the United States and perhaps
gives an idea of how they are likely to look in the
future if they stick around. Though it retains many of the basic features
of a wagon, the car is lifted a bit and covered in plastic cladding to
give it more of a rugged outdoor appearance. It retains the basic silhouette
of the wagon, but the outback has evolved over time to incorporate
more attributes of SUVs and crossovers Subaru told CNBC. This includes standard all wheel drive, the
ability to tow up to thirty five hundred pounds and a full
eight point seven inches of ground clearance higher than what is
found on many SUVs. The company said they were one of
the early players obviously in this crossover space before the term
crossover was even mentioned. And that’s again when they
were being called wagons. So I think they’ve done well if
they’ve got a very loyal buyer. They’ve expanded into the certainly the
outdoor lifestyle buyer has has has long been a Subaru advocate. So I think, you know, is that as
that continues to to develop and people are more interested in an active, active
lives and in certainly what what super has to offer from
just an honor and capability. But but also on dirt
and on on trails even. The outback shows that selling a wagon in the
US may be a lot easier if it happens to look like
a sport utility vehicle. In fact, it might be one of the
only wagon like vehicles to survive in the United States. But yeah, no question
about it, the wagon market is certainly taking cues from the from
the SUV and crossover segments and adding, as you said, a little
bit of cladding, raising that ground clearance up a little bit to give
it that that view that essentially it can compete with a crossover. That rather dire outlook has not
stopped other automakers from rolling the dice, though. General Motors sells the Buick
Regal Tours X, a US version of the Opel insignia wagon. GM used to sell in Europe
when it owned the Opel brand. Notably, the US version has the
same plastic cladding and slight lift, which is not seen
on the European version. But with a lower center of gravity,
it gives more sedan like driving dynamics and a lower roof for
easy rooftop access key features wagon buyers want in a car. There are several positive signs for wagon
fans elsewhere in the US if they have the cash. Much of the variety in the US wagon
market is found at the higher end, where luxury and high performance can
gloss over the otherwise dowdy and domestic image the wagon has. Given the fact that the countries with
some of the highest wagon sales are Germany and the Scandinavian nations. It makes sense that most of these
premium wagons are from German and Scandinavian automakers. The Swedish brand Volvo is perhaps the
brand best known for wagons, and its among the brands most committed to
the segment in the United States. Though Volvo has lately focused intensely
on building out its lineup of sport utility vehicles, a substantial portion
of its portfolio is still in wagons. I see the
same opportunities in us. So one part of me is a bit
confused that this should be much bigger. The volume should be
much, much, much bigger. But then we have the SUV trend in
the US that probably overlaps that kind of because could get the
space to an SUV. But I would say the wagons
are for me they’re beautiful. And I think you’ll see the cars here,
the size wise that are boxy anymore, and they are not boring. You get both. You get the driving capabilities
as a sedan and you get more space. And also it looks sporty
and that’s what we aim for. Volvo sells the mid-sized V60
wagon and the larger V90. Both can be bought in the cross
country trim, which means the car is lifted and comes with the familiar dark
cladding on the sides of the car. And Volvo also has a 415 horsepower
performance hybrid version of its V 60 bearing Volvos Polestar brand, which
was once its in-house performance shop and now specializes in
making high performance electric vehicles. Mercedes Benz sells its E-Class wagons
in the US, mostly to well-heeled buyers with families. The car sells especially
well in the Northeast. Wagon sales make up a tiny portion
of Mercedes US total zero point seven percent to be exact. But buyers are loyal and they pay an
E 450 for Madoc wagon starts at about sixty $66000 and the higher performance
AMG e63 S starts above one hundred eight thousand dollars. Fellow German automaker Audi said in August
of 2019, it plans to bring the R.S. Six a vaunt wagon to the US. The R.S. Six Avante
is a performance wagon. Audi will sell alongside the eight for
all road wagon it currently offers and the a six all road,
which Audi said in October. It will also be bringing
back to the US. In recent years in the United States, Audi
has only sold its a for all road wagon, which is also a
popular choice among premium wagon buyers. Even Porsche has a
wagon like vehicle. However, the number of wagon loving
diehards seems to be shrinking and many in the industry are not optimistic
that the wagon will make a comeback anytime soon. I just I wonder how many more cracks
at the bat we’re gonna get here from from this forbidden fruit. And these wagons
coming from overseas. So things are getting, you know, even
even slimmer for for a wagon enthusiast out there. And so guide the future for wagons. It’s going to be tough for for
future European wagons, too, to really come to United States. What buyers are more
likely to end up with is a crossover, which some say is really a
wagon in a slightly different form. There isn’t a lot of what I
would call pure wagon development going on right now. So, you know, with that
as a backdrop, the I guess prospects for the wagon
aren’t necessarily strong. But the caveat here is you’re getting
into then that, you know, blurring area where what is a
wagon and what’s a crossover? And a lot of the stuff that is
being developed is, you know, what I would argue is a shorter height twice vehicles
that that have kind of crossover style, but are probably
more like a wagon. Sport utility vehicles do seem to
have certain practical advantages over traditional passenger cars that consumers
seem to find irresistible. Most importantly, their taller height gives
drivers a better view of the road and often more
comfortable upright seating position. Customers also consider them easier to
get in and out of fuel. Economy has also improved on SUVs to
the point where they are often about as efficient as comparably
sized passenger cars. But their image as more rugged, sporty
and versatile vehicles has played a significant role in their appeal,
say many industry watchers. They have become so popular as family
vehicles that they may one day end up with the same reputation wagons
themselves earned over the decades. Practical but deeply uncool.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Federal/state maximum bumper height rules made car unsafe. For better or for worse, cars(and station wagons) are unlikely to comeback.

  2. There is strong sales for SUV and Crossover in North America, they are practically all over the place, you can't go anywhere without seeing one. Now and then you will see someone driving a wagon, referred in the video, such as Volvo station wagon. However I think that SUV and crossover do so well in the North America market is that they are right in the middle between beaning big and small. I think people want that large space for soccer games or having that 4 or 8 gallons extra gallon of gas for that annual road trip. It seems that the crossover are below SUV, where they can get most of the stuff done, but they are missing a few features that might be on a SUV,feature such as bigger head room, more leg space, more space for the engine things of sort. Now what i have learn from this video is that station wagon or just "wagons" are more of performance/ crossover like, if you live in the US. Station wagons are more of sport car like, for those who like Europe, it would be interesting to see one come to the US, but very doubtful.

  3. I have a 2013 allroad… But I hate when people call it a A4 allroad because I bought an allroad not a A4. A4 are sedans and not wagons..

  4. Wagons are superior to crossovers.
    They weigh less, have lower center of gravity, have better aerodynamics and thus provide better driving dynamics and enjoyment, get better gas millage and can cost less. In terms of passenger and cargo volume, they can exceed crossovers and definitely exceed sedans.
    The rear opening and cargo area offers similar or better utility as of crossovers, with better loading height.
    Wagons typically do not offer more ground clearance than sedans (the Outback being an exception), which is good for roads covered in snow. However, the most popular crossovers offer a very limited ground clearance.
    Crossovers do not offer much off-road capability, with their road tires, low ground clearance and basic AWD capabilities.
    All that crossovers really do provide over wagons is the higher seating position. Something a lot of customers like. This comes at the expense of all the other traits I mentioned above.
    The American buyer's taste in cars (and probably buyers in other countries) does not make sense.

  5. SUV is like a station wagon, only slightly higher and sporty, people are more status conscious in US now so they prefer cars that are higher above the ground, when a person drives an SUV it allows them to look down on the person sitting in the station wagon, that is why in UK people prefer Land Rovers, and other SUVs, while in USA the staple is the GMC truck and its gas guzzling sounds, generally trailer park people in US dream of owning a big GMC truck – "y'all one day I might get me one of those sierras, canyons, or silverados that kelley blue keeps talking about" LOL

  6. long term ownership cost of crossover vs wagon — and volume of space…maybe usa just not smart if its truly more efficient on gas and have similar space…

  7. The last sentence was very interesting. It will be interesting to see in ~20-30 years will the crossover be "practical, but deeply uncool."
    I will say, there is nothing cooler than a performance wagon. That is just such a niche car that you have nothing but respect for it.

  8. Americans are very auto naive. They say they don’t like hatchbacks or wagons but love SUV’s. Ironically SUV’s are just big hatchback wagons.

  9. So many people in CANADA like SUVs because they feel safe and like to be bigger than everyone else – high up. 🙄. The Auto industry loves that. More expensive – bigger more expensive tires etc etc. yet the same people bleat on about the enviroment 🤷‍♂️. Coming from Europe i always had a wagon – practical , economical and great to drive. VW are stopping selling the sport wagon in Canada soon ☹️

  10. Similar is the case with sedans. Nobody wants to arch their backs anymore. Tall, wide SUVS are the new rage which are a heck lot comfortable.

  11. 13 minutes, and no mention of dog ownership. Seriously, do any of the journalists responsible for the video own an estate wagon?

  12. Not mentioning CAFE fuel economy standards is big omission in this video. Manufacturers have to reach a certain average fleet fuel economy for cars and trucks/SUVs separately.

    Vehicles like the Buick Regal TourX could qualify in the truck/suv segment because it’s ride lift makes it “specially designed for off-road use,” thereby excluding it from being technically a wagon. Same with the cross country Volvo’s, Audi Allroads, etc. The number of wagons reported would be higher and crossover lower if automakers weren’t playing these classification games.

    Manufacturers are penalized for not meeting standards, and they are very difficult to reach for cars and full size trucks. By categorizing most of their car wagons as crossovers they make themselves much less likely to be fined.

    Case in point, the PT cruiser is qualified as an SUV. Not to say consumers don’t actually prefer lightly lifted wagons, but it’s important to see what’s going into that 1.4%.

  13. Minivans are what killed the station wagon here in the United States. It wasn't until much later, long after American manufacturers quit building station wagons that the crossover/SUV wannabes came on the scene!

  14. SUVs make no sense to me. Slow, heavy, poor gas mileage, poor handling and most people never go off roading with them. Bring back the wagons!

  15. My first car was a 1976 Chevy Malibu Station Wagon aka "The Blue Bomb". There are reasons people hate station wagons in the US.

  16. I bought a used 07 Honda CrV and went on a road trip the next day and regretted buying it. The seats are horribly uncomfortable. I wrote to a guy that recovers car seats and he hasn't had any calls for switch the padding to memory and or gel. I suppose that's because of the heated seats could then be a fire hazard.. I really wanted the Honda Element but none were available in my price range. The DMV Title lists the car as a station wagon. But my preference is the height to get in and out of it. Which I think is funny that people are lowering trucks like the height of cars..

  17. Station wagons have noticeably fallen in popularity in the United States. The Ford Taurus was available as a station wagon in addition to sedan up until 2007 for example. The first generation Ford Focus from 2000-2007 was also available as a station wagon in addition to hatchback and sedan. The second generation Ford Focus in the United States discontinued the station wagon as well as the hatchback and was available only as a coupe or sedan. The separate second generation for Europe though was available as a hatchback and station wagon in addition to coupe and sedan. The third generation Ford Focus from 2011-2018, which reunited the Focus design for both the US and Europe was available as a station wagon in Europe but not the United States. The fourth generation Ford Focus was also going to be available in the United States only in its crossover-like Active model imported from China before Ford backed out of those plans due to the Chinese tariffs. Also, in keeping with their plan to focus on SUVs, crossovers, and pickups, Ford plans to eventually discontinue the Fusion, but there are rumors that Ford may only discontinue the Fusion as a sedan and continue to produce it as Subaru Outback-style station wagon and crossover hybrid though nothing has been confirmed yet. Ford also sold the Escort as a station wagon up until the early 2000s Also Dodge sold the Magnum, a performance station wagon, from 2005-2008 and discontinued it due to low sales.

  18. I'm an American living in Europe and I drive a Kombi (wagon). I love them as there is so much utility. Now Crossovers and SUV's are just jacked up station wagons.

  19. Never really knew what a station wagon was, no vehicles here are given this title …. We call them estate cars, longer versions of the hatchback. They've always been a feature here, my parents got a 505 Peugeot estate in 79 for our family so we could travel in style, our first trip was to Austria.

  20. We’re currently having the same SUV craze here in the Philippines, but I’ve noticed that slowly but surely, SUVs are starting to gain a reputation amongst younger generations as uncool, middle aged “dad-cars”; and I can clearly see that younger generations are slowly shuffling back to sedans, hatchbacks and wagons.

  21. The reason is simple. The designers ruined the wagon in America. They lowered the roof line and reduced the size such people went to trucks and SUVs. The new crossovers are too small and are designing out the offroad capabilities for styling.

  22. 4:15 A Subbie with a Massachusetts green plate (an old style one-plate practice that RMV stopped in the 90s but did not force owners to give that up), classic!

  23. Wagons just aren't pushed here. More money in crossovers. Americans will buy what they are told to. I think there's like 3 wagons here that I would consider buying.

  24. Simple answer is feminism : Women control the market more and more and they are fearful/insecure, need a bigass 2t weight SUV driving above other people to feel safe and carry the 10-20kg children and their 60kg ass.

  25. 2:05

    Finland is not part of Scandinavia! Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are the only members. Cmon man. Do some basic research

  26. Outback is considered truck just like SUV and Crossovers to get a lower tax. US is not a earth friendly country. Also in the snow and rain, wagon and sedans are more stable compare to SUV.

  27. '
    american vehicles are NOT safety…
    NO NO have 2 amber yellow lights on the rear taillights for turning signals…
    that is a america company own risk problem without amber yellow lights

  28. All a lot of guff here. It's simple, wagons can be as sporty as their salon counterparts (Audi RS6 wagon for instance), with stable and low ground clearance plus it is practical.

    BMW 5series Touring Owner.

  29. the last wagon our family owned was a olds custom cruiser from the 80's it had a 350 v8, we had it for years before we junked it.

  30. Station wagons are today's mini Van's. On paper they both make sense, however in reality, there's no market. Niche players like Subaru will continue to thrive and few others will see that kind of success.

  31. americans have no taste, they think a crossover is 'cool'. wagons are elegant and sporty wagons are a lot more sophisticated looking than crossovers but americans have the herd mentality and will not buy something that isn't 'in'.

  32. They could do in America what they do most other places. Rename them. Instead of wagon, they’ve been strategically named ‘sports tourer’. Or ‘estate’ to most of us in the uk.

  33. Uhhh, the data shows wagon sales are actually growing in the USA. Thus more wagons are on the way, like the Audi RS6 Avant and A6 All-Road. Also in Europe, SUV sales have exploded and continue to grow hurting sedan and wagon sales there.

  34. We in Switzerland don't have many sedans… They are about 5% of all the sales. Most sold car 2019 in Switzerland is the Škoda Octavia, a wagon. And there's a lot of SUV's too, a lot actually! But I don't like them… They're to fancy!

  35. As a Buick (Opel) Tourx owner we regularly hear "Cool Car!" When at a gas station. Something I am sure no crossover driver has ever heard.

  36. Forever a wagon lover.  SUVs don't have the same benefits, MPG, or style.  Americans just want people to think their "Sporty".  If they added "Sport" to the wagon description Americans would buy it.  We need to double gas prices.  Then wagons would come back.  We drove a Fusion (Mondeo) wagon in Poland and it was a 1liter turbo diesel and we got 40 mpg and better on long hauls.  If they made an affordable wagon instead of only making high end ones people would buy them.  Come out with a Cruze wagon or a Focus wagon and they would sell for sure.  When you charge $30k plus you eliminate far too much of the market.

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