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Last month, the U.S. reportedly set a new record last for SUV and pickup truck sales. These types of vehicles are known as the most pedestrian-unfriendly vehicles on roadways nationwide. Moreover, in a recent article, Streetsblog noted who were the leading purchasers of pickups and SUVs.
According to new data from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, light truck sales soared to yet another all-time high in Mar. 2021, topping 13.8 million units sold in that month alone. This represents a 6% bump from the previous all-time record set this Jan., and a 10% increase over the previous 45-year high in July 2005. But the big car surge 16 years ago was part of an upward sales trend among all types of vehicles. Right now, total vehicle sales are actually about 14% lower than they were in July of 2005 — “which makes the spike in mega-car buying all the more terrifying,” Streetsblog wrote.
A well known fact, late-model SUVs still appear to be more likely to kill pedestrians than cars, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Per a recent study’s limited sample, SUVs reportedly cause 7% more serious injuries to pedestrians than passenger cars when struck at speeds quicker than 19 miles per hour. At speeds between 20 and 39 mph, 30% of pedestrians struck by SUVs died, compared with 25% who were hit by cars. For pedestrians struck by SUV’s going at speeds of 40 mph or greater died, 100% died, versus 54% who were struck by cars.
As Streetsblog notes, there’s a mountain of evidence saying that the rise in SUV and pickup truck sales is one of the single largest contributors to the pedestrian death crisis in the U.S. The publication attributes this to “a toxic combination” of heavy vehicle weights, ample blind spots, and high front bumpers that strike most vulnerable road users at the head and neck level, where injuries are more likely to be fatal.
Moreover, a recent study found that women drivers are more likely to die in crashes involving large vehicles. The cause of this problem is due to the fact that men, especially those who have aggressive driving tendencies, are often seen operating vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks. These types of male drivers are expected to commit negligent behavior that may result in a fatal accident.
This, like the aforementioned data, points to who is exactly buying these potentially deadly vehicles. Streetsblog spoke to market research firm Strategic Vision, which has surveyed millions of new car buyers across the country as part of its New Vehicle Experience Study for the last 22 years. Here’s what the publication highlighted about pickup truck and SUV buyers from the 2020 edition of the study, drawn from more than 46,000 respondents:
According to Strategic Vision, consumers who self-identified as Republican bought eight pickup trucks for every one purchased by a self-identified Democrat. They also bought roughly twice as many of each class of SUVs as their blue counterparts, giving them a 55% share of the sport utility market overall.
Researchers also found that Republican motorists looked for a vehicle that is “powerful, rugged, and prestigious.” Democrats, on the other hand, said they want an “environmentally friendly vehicle that is both economical and cool,” and independents said they want cars that are “functional, reliable and sensible.” Also, republicans were most likely to replace their car with a new one after just “three to six years.” That’s in sharp contrast to the average car on the road, which is reportedly about 12 years old on average.
The team at Strategic Vision found that just 16% of pickup buyers and 23% of SUV buyers identified as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority group.
Only 12% of truck buyers identified as women, according to the survey. But when it comes to sport utility vehicles, the field is more evenly split. Women made up 52% of SUV buyers, roughly on par with their share of the U.S. population.
A myth exists about megacar buyers needing huge vehicles because they live in areas with rural areas with rough terrain, or because they work in industries that require them to haul big loads every day. And according to Strategic Vision, pickup drivers are more likely to hold jobs in skilled trades, farming, and heavy industries.
However, those sectors don’t represent as big of a chunk of the megacar market as we might assume. Just 11% of truck buyers and 4% of SUV buyers say they fix things like pipes and electrical systems for a living. Only 1% of truck buyers and a statically irrelevant number of SUV buyers are actually farmers. Only about 1.3% of the workforce is employed by the agricultural sector.
In fact, the largest segments of both the truck and SUV markets characterized their hometown as a “suburban community of a large city,” with a slightly lower percentage of truck buyers self-identifying as “small town or rural city” residents.
The median household income of the average truck driver is $108,334 a year. For SUV drivers, their households earn $97,082 annually, which is not that far behind.