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A Short History of the SUV for Students in Mechanic Programs

Published on December 6, 2018 by in Blog, CATI

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Canadians love their sport utility vehicles (SUVs). In fact, while passenger car sales have been dropping for years, SUV sales are skyrocketing and now account for 44.3% of all vehicle sales in Canada. We rely on our SUVs for everything from getting the groceries to planning rugged camping adventures. SUVs are so common that it can be easy to overlook the fact that this vehicle’s success was not always assured.

In fact, the SUV has had a volatile and surprising history. If you’ve ever wondered how the SUV came to dominate our roads and highways, read on to find out!

The First Chevy Suburban Isn’t One You’re Likely to See in Your Automotive Career

While the Chevrolet Suburban is today one of the most popular SUVs, you may not know that its distant ancestor is sometimes credited as being the forerunner of both the SUV and the station wagon. In 1935, Chevrolet introduced the Carryall Suburban, which was a type of what was then called a “depot hack.” A depot hack, like modern SUVs, was basically just a light passenger vehicle that had a large cargo area that could be used to transport passengers.

World War II Created the All-Terrain SUV that Auto Mechanics Recognize Today

While the Carryall Suburban was a predecessor of both station wagons and SUVs, it was not an all-terrain vehicle like modern SUVs. It was during World War II when the first vehicle we would recognize as an SUV was created. Prior to entering the war, the United States government realized that they would need a 4-wheel-drive, all-terrain vehicle that could quickly transport troops and supplies over land. Automobile company Willys-Overland won the contract and, in collaboration with Ford, they mass produced two SUVs for the military: the Willys MB and the Ford Model GPW, both of which came to be known by their famous nickname, “the Jeep.”

Developed during World War II, the American “Jeep” was the predecessor of the modern SUV

Developed during World War II, the American “Jeep” was the predecessor of the modern SUV

Britain and Japan Get Involved in SUV Automotive Manufacturing

The British took notice of this American innovation and, shortly after the war they developed their own version of the SUV, the iconic Land Rover. While the Land Rover was similar to the Jeep in many ways, it had features that made it more useful for farmers.

During the Korean War, meanwhile, the U.S. military asked Japanese automaker Toyota to develop an SUV that could be used by troops. While Toyota’s design was rejected by the U.S., it led to the introduction of the Toyota Land Cruiser in 1953, which was a durable SUV used by the Japanese National Police Agency. During this time SUVs were first marketed to consumers as “family utility vehicles,” but for the most part they were overshadowed by sedans, station wagons, and pickup trucks, all of which were seen as safer and more practical. That’s a far cry from today when many an automotive career will entail spending a lot of time working on SUVs!

The 1990s: The SUV Takes Centre Stage at Dealerships

The oil crisis in the 1970s led the U.S. government to impose standards on auto manufacturers that forced them to market SUVs as “work” vehicles. That change scared away many consumers and almost completely destroyed the SUV. It was not until the early 1980s that SUVs were reclassified as “light trucks.”

While rare a few decades ago, today SUVs dominate dealerships and automotive repair shops

While rare a few decades ago, today SUVs dominate dealerships and automotive repair shops

That reclassification, along with improvements in safety and affordability, helped make SUVs far more attractive to the average consumer. During the 1990s, SUV sales really picked up pace and that trend continues to this day. Chances are good that many of the vehicles you’ll be working on after your automotive courses will be SUVs.

Are you looking to jump into a fun career that will allow you to work with cars, trucks, and SUVs?

Contact Automotive Training Centres today to learn more about our auto mechanic program!

 
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