RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Ford, Toyota and Jeep among others had record SUV sales for the month of April. Last month, like for most of the year, Americans bought more trucks and SUVs than cars. So what's become of the four-door family sedan? For the answer, we turned to NPR's Sonari Glinton.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Americans like SUVs. They always have. If you look at what are called crossovers - you know, smaller SUVs, the Toyota RAV-4, the Ford Escape - they look a lot like the cars that were made in the U.S. in the '50s. Jack Nerad is with Kelly Blue Book.
JACK NERAD: They're taller. The seating position is higher. They're roomier. You know, you're talking about four doors with a high seating position, you know, command of the road kind of look out the windows. And people like that. And once people get comfortable with that, they don't want to go back into a lower sedan.
GLINTON: Sales, especially of larger sedans, have been plummeting. And the luxury sedan market has stalled, forcing companies like Maserati and Jaguar - known for sports cars - to get into the SUV game.
NERAD: Look at what Porsche has done. Porsche has basically become an SUV company. That's where all their volume is - you know, SUV crossovers.
GLINTON: Low gas prices have made larger vehicles more attractive, and that sent the car companies that are more dependent on car sales scrambling.
I met Andrew Coetzee, the head of product planning for Toyota, at the company's repair shop at its headquarters in Torrance, Calif.
ANDREW COETZEE: We're adding more and more spice, I think, to our vehicles, a little bit more flavor to them that I think in this market is desired. And I think with younger buyers particularly they are looking for something with more personality.
GLINTON: I think I just got you to admit that in the past Toyota cars haven't been so spicy, but...
COETZEE: I think what I'm admitting is that our reputation was more for reliability and fuel economy.
GLINTON: Coetzee says companies like Toyota have to be ready for the eventual rise in gas prices. He says that 50 years old and 43 million sold, a car like the Corolla is going to be around for a while.
COETZEE: There will probably still be a good market for good products like Corolla, I would say, in the future. But we will adjust our sales mix because if people want something else, we'll give them something else instead. That should be our mantra, I think.
GLINTON: While we may love our SUVs and trucks in the U.S., in places like India, China and Brazil, not so much. The most popular vehicles in the rest of the world - your Ford Focuses and your Toyota Corollas. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Torrance, Calif.
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