The family sedan is dead

Ford Country Squire station wagon 1990FordDead.

One of the great things about online journalism is that you can write about a lot of topics, all the time.

However, if you do write about a lot of topics, all the time, you can sometimes forget when you did the writing.

Case in point: Bloomberg’s Keith Naughton reported on Thursday that Toyota thinks the sales-leading days of the family car may be numbered:

Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Corp.’s top U.S. sales executive,predicted today that the RAV4 will outsell the Camry within the next five years as millennials, the children of the baby boomers, embrace small SUVs as the new family car.

“I’ll bet you lunch that will happen,” Carter told reporters Thursday at a Toyota holiday party in Detroit. “Many of these under-35-year-old buyers, who are entering the market in a big way right now, grew up in SUVs.”

Which prompted me immediately proclaim to our Transportation Reporter, Ben Zhang — who works across from me in our New York newsroom — that my recently expressed theory about the death of the family car had now been vindicated at the highest level of Toyota’s US executive ladder.

Except that I hadn’t sounded the death knell for the family car, done in by the SUV, in 2014 or 2015, as I thought.

I said the family car was a goner in 2009:

To put it bluntly, even big sedans aren’t big enough to haul around the bevy of sports gear, pets, and offspring that now make up many American families. In the 1990s, families began replacing their Buicks and Ford Tauruses with SUVs, and now they have moved on to a combination of SUVs and so-called “crossover” vehicles, which are essentially five- and seven-passenger SUVs built not on truck, but on car platforms, for better handling and fuel-efficiency. They’re the modern-day station wagons.

There’s new wrinkle these days, now that the auto market has recovered from the darkest days of the financial crisis and young people can buy cars again.

They aren’t buying cars.

They’re buying SUVs.

And as it turns out, Toyota now thinks that this major shift could spell the end of one of its all-time best-selling vehicles.

Which, as it turns out, I liked … and I correctly remembered that I liked it earlier this year!

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