COMMERCIAL FEATURE: The numbers don't lie: Australians have a soft spot in their hearts for SUVs.

Sales have skyrocketed from 105,510 in 2000 to 244,136 in 2011 - a whopping 131 per cent increase over the 11 year period. Sales of other large cars, including sedans, are down 23 per cent in 2011 alone, even though SUV sales have increased  29 per cent in this period. While it’s clear that SUVs are among the most beloved vehicles in Australia, they have taken root here much more than elsewhere in the world.

Globally, SUV sales have increased in the 11 year period from 2000 to 2011 – while sales have fallen somewhat, spurred by rising fuel prices, SUVs remain one of the most optimistic segments for automobile manufacturers.

In the US, SUV and crossover sales are up 7.6 per cent in September over the previous year - a trend echoed in Australia as well. Large car sales, meanwhile, have fallen drastically by 79.4 per cent.

SUVs are ideal family cars - they are spacious and comfortable, can ferry a lot of people and goods, and can tame any terrain. SUVs equipped with 4 wheel drive can tackle the toughest roads in Australia's interior, making them perfect for cross-country road trips. Indeed, given Australia's excellent road infrastructure and vast land mass, SUVs are a natural choice for drivers: they can easily hold a surfboard and a dog for the weekends, ferry the kids – or adults – to sports practice, and are perfect for lugging a camping BBQ to the park for picnics.

Car manufacturers have responded enthusiastically to Australia’s love for SUVs by flooding the market with a variety of models. At present, there are 79 different SUV models available in Australia, catering to virtually every segment of the market - from small, city oriented SUVs and crossovers, to large 4x4s meant to be driven on rough country roads. Crossovers are another vibrant segment for auto manufacturers, filling the gap between a practical SUV and an everyday car.

To be sure, small, affordable hatchbacks still represent the largest slice in the automobile sales pie, with sales of light and small cars totalling 281,294 since the beginning of the year. However, growth in the small car segment was very slow over the past year (2.4 per cent) compared to growth in SUVs (58 per cent).

SUVs are the perfect vehicles for Australia, equally comfortable in cities and in the country; little wonder that sales are at an all-time high! No matter how some may pine for the compact, car-less cities of Europe, Australia’s wide open places and sprawling cities call for a car that can handle them practically and in style, and it looks like the SUV is here to stay.