A target for widespread criticism
Vehicles that are viewed as polluting, but not always
One issue that seems to stick to SUVs like glue is that of pollution. And again on this topic, the differences between owners and non-owners of SUVs are marked. 36% of non-owners think that SUVs pollute more than any other type of vehicle, while only 23% of SUV owners concur with this suggestion (Fig. 7). And opinions become more polarised depending on where people live. At the front of the queue of those who criticise SUVs for their environmental impact are non-owners from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and France, while those from emerging countries once again put forward a somewhat different opinion.
SUV owners also express diverging points of view, although the same geographical divisions are not apparent. Dutch and South African SUV owners are the most critical (31%), while the Mexicans and Turks are the least likely to voice such an opinion (11% and 13%).
A vehicle that attracts criticism from society
The environmental question is by far the thickest dividing line between the pro- and anti-SUV factions. Public debate around SUVs has generated constant and regular criticism of these vehicles. According to an October 2019 study by the International Energy Agency, SUVs have been the second largest contributor to the rise in global CO2 emissions since 2010, behind electricity generation, but ahead of heavy industry, road transport and aviation. A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reached the same conclusion. However, this result must be qualified by considering the different types of SUV. The impact of American SUVs, which are heavier, larger, more powerful and even less aerodynamic than their European counterparts, is much greater. It is also important to note that the increase in SUV sales in some countries, including France, has gone hand in hand with a decline in sales of diesel vehicles. The increasing “electrification” of vehicle ranges and the stiffening of environmental regulations have contributed to positive trends in terms of energy usage.
But this is not the only issue that makes the topic of SUVs a source of discord. Their height and overall size often cause problems in towns, where their presence continues to grow. Road lanes and car parks are sometimes too small for SUVs to be able to use them without difficulty.
Another cause for criticism is the increased risk of accidents.An AXA study conducted in Switzerland in August 2020 revealed that the larger an SUV, the higher the risk of it being involved in an accident. In the United States, the Governors Highway Safety Association pointed out in 2018 that the significant rise in the number of light trucks in circulation was causing an increase in the number of pedestrians killed in road accidents.