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Crossing over

Consequently, we are likely to see more of the low-riding SUVs like the Nissan Murano that combine attributes of off-roaders, people movers and station wagons.

Ford believes Crossovers will account for more than 3 million sales a year in America by the end of the decade as more and more manufacturers jump on the bandwagon.

They view the potential Crossover customer as aged in their 50s and 60s and are prodded by the rapid expansion of this population.

However, in Australia, Crossovers such as the new Nissan Murano and Mazda CX-7 have received a soft consumer response, compared with harder-edged medium-size SUVs such as the soldiering-on Pajero.

Sales of compact SUVs last year were up 4.1 per cent and bucked the national downward trend of 2.6 per cent for all new vehicles. But sales of medium SUVs were down a whopping 15.2 per cent last year.

But that hasn't stopped manufacturers looking ahead to the next generation of Crossovers with several on show at this month's Detroit Motor Show.

Ford unveiled a concept called the Airstream, designed to satisfy the growing wanderlust of these consumers, often retirees with time for travel. Airstream has been developed jointly with the Airstream trailer company, maker of the iconic American aluminium streamlined caravans of the 1950s. The Airstream has a hybrid powertrain, giving it a fuel consumption of 7.7l/100km and can run for 40km as a pure electric car.

It features illuminated orange window surrounds and asymmetric doors.

Nissan's Bevel is also aimed at ageing baby-boomers and features an asymmetric door layout, with a single offside driver's door and wide-opening double suicide doors on the nearside, plus a rear tailgate that flips over to become a loading shelf.

Another feature is its overt '70s styling, elements of which could become part of Nissan's design house style in the future, especially the oblong grille incorporating the front lighting.

There are no plans yet to build production models of the vehicles.