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The Third Row

January 19, 2005

Since when did it become a requirement for every SUV to offer a third row of seating?  It seems like every new SUV coming out has some sort of fold-flat third row as a standard feature.  Unless you’re the designated transport for your kid’s soccer team, what’s the need, really?  If you have between one and three kids, guess what, there’s a BACK SEAT. 

I’d be curious to see research on exactly how many buyers actually use the third row.  We used the third row in the wife’s Pilot exactly once, and we could have gotten by just as well using the just the cargo area.  And the Xterra, well, that’s one of the things I love about it.  It has five seats, like God intended.

Personally, I think the third row is a plan foisted upon us by the auto industry to get us to pay more money for yet another unnecessary standard feature.

What galls me, though, is that the industry thinks that people just love the third row.  Take GMC, for example.  Rumors are circulating that they are going to kill off the Envoy XUV.  Heard of it?  You probably have, and just don’t remember.  It’s that goofy looking Envoy with the convertible roof, which is perfectly useful if you plan to be transporting trees on a regular basis.

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Why, you ask, are they killing such a useful vehicle?  Well, to quote The Car Connection:

"As for the GMC Envoy XUV – the SUV with the convertible wagon flair – sales have thus far not met projections, which a GM official said in part was due to its five-seat cabin. Sales of about 12,000 units are about a tenth of GM’s projections for the vehicle."

Five-seat cabin, my ass.  Do you know what the seating capacity for the regular, non-convertible Envoy is?  You guessed it – five. 

Could it instead be due to the fact that the XUV is hideous?  Or could it be because it rides like a tank, with all that convertible crap stuck onto the roof, waaaay up there above the center of gravity?  Or…could it just be that people aren’t about to pay $2,000 for some neato option that they’ll use a total of two or three times?  I mean, seriously, if you really have to haul around a bunch of stuff that’s too tall to fit into an SUV, shouldn’t you be buying a pickup truck instead?  Which GMC also sells (for far less than an Envoy XUV, I might add).

Wouldn’t it be great, for once, for a company to just come out and acknowledge that it’s product was a failure?  I mean, GMC had a neat concept with the XUV, there was just no reason for anyone (well, except for 12,000 people) to buy one.  At least they made the effort, and at least they’re showing a commitment to innovation.

But blaming it on the five-seat cabin?  Good job, guys.

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