Crossovers. Nobody likes ‘em. I don’t really like ‘em. You probably don’t like ‘em. Unfortunately, there remains one stubborn, fatuous subset of American car buyers who do like ‘em: pretty much all American car buyers.
People seem to love the image of a crossover: practical, distinguishable, and indicative of the sporty lifestyle they imagine themselves to have - nay, deserve, even though their daily schedule constitutes little more than a double shift at CVS followed by four hours of Netflix and a slow descent into a wine cooler coma.
They’re certainly flying off lots. And when I say flying, I mean that the average crossover sale consists of a customer tossing a check tied to a rock through a dealer’s window and the dealer tossing the keys back at them. This process repeats approximately eleven million times per day (or per hour, in certain parts of the Northwest, where Subaru Crosstreks comfortably outnumber dust particles and blades of grass).
Lincoln, renowned peddlers of classic, refined, rebadged Ford Fusions, saw a 5% increase in SUV and crossover sales just this May. In 2017 alone, Honda sold over 357,000 of the damn things. In contrast, the Toyota Camry (mayor of Beigemobile County and the best-selling sedan), sold only 8% more than that, and that’s one of the most popular cars ever. Every time I spit out my bedroom window it lands on a crossover. This is probably because my neighbor parks his Nissan Rogue under my bedroom window, but the point still stands.
So you can probably see how this will help #SaveTheManuals, but if you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t speak hashtag, let me explain it.
Nobody wants a manual anymore, except people who won’t use it as a daily driver. Nobody would prefer to disintegrate their shins in traffic, lugging their base-model Civic around at six miles an hour in second, quietly cursing the gods for convincing them it would all be worth it when they take it out for the weekend on some back roads, wringing every lick of power they can out of the hair dryer under the hood.
But, thankfully, some companies still appreciate the enthusiast, offering cars with manuals designed to be fun, and nothing else. No big deal then, right? The option is there if you want it. The problem is that these are often not cars you’d want to daily drive in the first place, and most people can’t afford two cars. The Ford Focus RS, for example, is biblically fast and hilariously fun, but the ride will turn your spine to dust after ten miles if the seats don’t get to it first. A Miata barely has enough cargo room to haul home a Splenda packet you picked up at Starbucks. Puttering around in a red-trimmed Honda Civic Type R makes you look like Satan’s CPA on his day off.
Needless to say, these are not high-volume cars. So to be able to build them, companies must turn to a more mainstream model, a drab, suburban cash cow that’ll attract your typical nuclear parents and all their PTA acquaintances. And in the current market, said cow is the humble crossover: something fashionable (sorta) and popular (unfortunately).
But here comes my shocking thesis: this isn’t a bad thing. Crossovers will save the manuals. They’re doing it right now. The Civic Type R has a manual because Honda sells such a prodigious quantity of CR-Vs. Ditto for the Focus RS, and the Focus ST, and the Fiesta ST, only their saviors are the Edge and Escape.
It’s not even just manuals that the crossovers are out to save. Imagine any sort of niche car, one that would make a Jalop happy but nobody else. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake, for example, is a sporty, low-volume station wagon. It’s being built, it’s coming to America, and it’s all possible because Jaguar caved to the market and started building the F-Pace SUV. Lamborghini and Ferrari can afford to build increasingly ridiculous Floyd-Mayweather-dream-machines because they’re owned by Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler, who churn out thousands upon thousands of dismal Tiguans and Renegades and 500Ls. The funmobile may be king, but the econobox is its throne.
So I welcome crossovers: bring me your CR-Vs, your Foresters, your CX-5s and Santa Fes. I will welcome them with open arms, for they are the reason I can drop fifty grand on a lifted Volvo wagon without a drop of guilt, and shall be able to do so for many years to come.
(Until those twincharged four-pots inevitably start to explode.)