DETROIT -- Aging Baby Boomers. Couples with small kids. Single people with dogs.
All three groups love compact crossover SUVs, utility vehicles built mainly on small-car frames that are among the hottest-selling vehicles in the U.S.
So far this year, sales of the versatile, high-sitting hatchbacks such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 are up more than 20 percent.
From 2000 through last year, annual U.S. sales of small crossovers quadrupled, from just over 405,000 to well above 1.6 million, according to LMC Automotive, an industry data and research firm. Only their larger cousins, midsize crossovers such as the Toyota Highlander and Ford Edge, grew faster. This year, sales of small crossovers have already passed last year's record total of 1,656,497.
John Felice, Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. marketing and sales chief, said buyers have been moving to the small crossovers from other vehicles, a trend that has accelerated in the past three months.
"Some of the source of that shift has come from the car side of the business," he said, after Ford reported a 17 percent decline in sales of its Focus small car.
Dealers and small-crossover owners say the vehicles are appealing for a number of reasons: