If you want to know why there are so many new SUVs coming on the market, consider that last year 34% of all cars registered globally were SUVs.
That’s up from 22.4% in 2014, the year that the SUV boom really gathered momentum, according to JATO data.
That figure represents 27.85 millions registrations, led by China (10.73m registrations, up 13.2% year- on-year), North America (8.21m, up 6.2%) and Europe (5.51m, up 19.2%).
Crucially, China’s boom shows no sign of abating. Last year 41.6% of car registrations in China were SUVs, indicating the surge in popularity of the bodystyle in a market that until recently was ruled by saloons.
However, the Q8 has a key role to play in China beyond pure sales: as Audi’s range-topper, it sets the aspirational tone for the whole brand. This is especially crucial in the SUV market, where China’s homegrown makers are making headway in the sales charts – top seller Great Wall’s SUVs sales eclipsed those of Audi by around one third last year.
While the bulk of Great Wall’s success has been at the lower end of the market thus far, the healthier profit margins of premium success will inevitably attract challengers. Indeed, Great Wall has launched its own premium SUV brand, Wey, to try to capture some of that growth. Cars such as the Q8 play perfectly to the predominantly more extrovert tastes of China’s buyers and allow Audi et al to defend their market position.
Bear in mind, too, where the smart money is for the next wave of SUV interest. Most predict Russia, India and Brazil will lead the way and, again, these are markets where Audi will have high expectations for sales generally and the Q8 in particular.