US sales 2015 first half Subcompact segment

 

US subcompacts

The Subcompact segment shrank by 6%, a slightly faster decline than the 4% at which all the mainstream segments shrank compared to the first half of 2014. This is goes against the trend in recent years when subcompacts have been growing in popularity, and is probably driven by factors such as an aging line-up for most carmakers and lower gas prices compared to last year. It also seems like it might get worse for the segment before it gets better, seeing as there are no new models on the horizon beyond the Scion iA, a Mazda2 sedan in drag.

Kia SoulH1 2015 sales figures suggest there are three tiers of cars in the Subcompact segment. First, there are the market leaders – Kia Soul retains its position at the lead, though its lead over the second-placed Nissan Versa shrank to just around 1,000 units. It should be noted that while the Soul is only sold as a hatchback, the Versa comes in two flavors – a modern hatchback (Note in Europe) and an ugly, cheap 4-door sedan whose USP is that it offers the largest amount of interior space for a car in this price bracket.

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US sales 2015 first half Large segment

US Large

The non-premium Large segment in the US is one that has pretty much been abandoned by mainstream manufacturers in Europe, where it once comprised of cars like the Citroën XM/C6, Ford Scorpio, Opel Omega or Renault 25/Vel Satis. In the US, on the other hand, carmakers continue offering cars that are usually based on larger versions of the FWD platforms that underpin their mid-sized sedans, though a few models are actually a unique RWD design (Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger, Chevrolet SS). The cars are usually bought by older customers who appreciate larger, easier-to-access interiors, but don’t need the higher price and sporty pretensions that usually come with cars in the Premium Large segment.

2015 Dodge Charger R/T

2015 Dodge Charger R/T

Not all is well with the segment, though, as sales fell 18% compared to the same period in 2014, the largest fall from among all the segments. With sales totaling little over 230,000 in H1 2015, the Large segment is now less than a fifth the size of the Mid-sized segment. Chevrolet Impala remains the market leader, offering a nice mix of style and substance that was deemed so successful that it served as inspiration for the incoming Malibu younger brother. However, with sales falling by 26% it may not remain top dog for much longer – less than 10,000 units behind is the Dodge Charger, the only model whose sales grew year-on-year, as consumers clearly liked the aggressive 2015 facelift and the halo effect of the 700HP+ (!) Hellcat model. In fact, the Charger not only outsold its Chrysler 300 cousin (#5) by over 2-to-1, it actually outsold the smaller Dodge Dart over the first half of 2015, giving you a sense of how popular the car is.

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US sales 2015 first half Mid-sized segment

US mid-sized

The mid-sized segment in the US shrank by 3% year-on-year, compared to a 4% increase in sales overall and in line with a fall of 4% among mainstream segments (non-premium subcompact to large). As a result, total sales in the segment at 1,166,633 were only a little bit over 100,000 higher than in the compact sector. If this trend continues, compacts may soon take over as the most popular mainstream cars in the US, unless mid-sized sales are lifted after new metal goes on sale in the second half in 2015: the new Chevy Malibu and Kia Optima, as well as the facelifted Honda Accord and VW Passat.

Toyota CamryToyota Camry remains the clear segment leader, as it has been for the past 12 years (a remarkable run!). While the current, 8th generation was generally seen as a step back style- and quality-wise when it came out in 2011, the 2015 facelift helped a lot, and as a result the sales were down only 3%. The same cannot be said for the perennial #2, the Honda Accord, which lost a massive 16% compared to the same period last year, the largest fall from among the top 10 models. That left an open goal for the following pack and allowed the Nissan Altima to step up to #2 for the first time in, well, probably ever. The Accord is actually lucky to have landed in #3, as it was less than 3,000 units ahead of the Ford Fusion. Interesting, the Altima, Accord and Fusion all came out in 2013, but given its dismal performance its not surprising that the Accord is the first one to receive a facelift, which will go on sale soon.

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US sales 2015 first half Compact segment

US compacts

The compact segment in the US gets the dubious distinction as being the only mainstream segment to grow in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. In fact, the growth rate at 3% was very close to the 4% growth rate of the whole. market. Not a bad showing in these SUV-obsessed times.

Toyota CorollaThe traditional segment leader, Toyota Corolla, strengthened its grip on the top spot. It seems that no matter what the opposition tries to do, the dependable, inoffensive Corolla still comes up on top. It probably helps that it is a younger design than the cars that took the three places behind it, all of which are about to be replaced in the coming year. Of the three the Hyundai Elantra did the best, and its year-on-year growth sees it snatch 3rd place ahead of Chevy Cruze by under 1,000 cars.

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US vs Europe – an introduction

To kick-start our coverage of the US car market we figured it would be good to give our European readers a bit of background on what the car market is like across the Atlantic. Here are 6 trends that differentiate the two markets:

1.   The stereotypes are true: SUVs and pickup trucks are much more important in the US

While mainstream cars make up 60% of car sales in Europe, they only make up less than 40% of the US market. This becomes even more stark once you add the premium derivatives – the proportions become 75% vs 45%. Instead, the SUVs chunk of the market is almost twice as large in the US (30%) as it is in Europe (17%). Add to that another 14% of the US market that’s captured by pickups, and the high-level difference between the two markets becomes clear.

US vs Europe - overall split
Data reflects sales in the first half of 2015
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Coming soon: US car sales!

USA flag 1

New Merc GLC (née GLK) to finally take the fight to Q5, X3, XC60

It seems Mercedes is finally serious about gunning for class leadership with the new GLC, as the new car is a much better put-together proposition than its GLK predecessor. For starters, it eschews the awkward faux-Geländewagen boxy looks in favor of much more organic looks of the new C-class. In fact, I believe it automatically becomes the most handsome car in the class alongside the Porsche Macan, easily beating the somewhat awkward X3 and handsome but dated Q5.

0001_mercedesglc

More than that, however, the new model seems to have all the advantages of the donor C-class, such as an advanced and lighter platform, gorgeous interior and sophisticated drivetrain options. And Mercedes will also finally offer the new car in the UK in right-hand-drive, in recognition of the importance of that market to compact premium SUV sales.

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Why Skoda should become Volkswagen (for the US market) w/ POLL

Volkswagen’s struggles to sell cars in the US market at anything close to the rate its mainstream competitors are managing are well documented. Try as it may, the German manufacturer has been unable to punch beyond the niche of cars for people who want to be different and are willing to pay a little extra for the privilege. Its list of faux-pas is long: from bungling the local production of the Golf/Jetta in the 1980s that lead to myriad quality issues, through trying to sell cars that were too small and too expensive for the US market, all the way to missing out on the crossover wave. While the “right-sized” US/Chinese Passat and Jetta helped matters a little bit in the early 2010s, these cars have since slid back behind their competitors in terms of sales and appeal.

So, this might be the right time to try something drastic – rather than develop more US-specific cars or struggle with their Euro-centric line-up, VW should take Skoda’s mainstream offerings, rebrand them as VWs in the US and watch as they fly off the shelves.

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Sure, this is by no means a new idea, but arguably now it’s more true than ever, for five reasons:

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Renault Kwid is one good-looking Dacia!

One is used to cars designed for the Indian market often looking rather ridiculous: think tall and narrow Nano, the booted Renault Thalia (Clio), or, even worse, the Suzuki Swift sedan. That is why the newest Renault for the Indian market, the Kwid, is a very pleasant surprise – it not only looks good, it looks European-good! Not only that, it is based on an all-new CMF-A platform from the Renault-Nissan alliance, though a 0.8-liter petrol unit will likely ensure its more “show” than “go”. Still, starting at below $5,000 in India, the car looks to be a great hit, and will surely be sold in markets around the world.

Renault-KWID-5

What is weird about it, though, is that it looks a whole lot like another car from Renault’s sister company: the Dacia Sandero Stepway. A smaller, better-executed version, sure – but the family resemblance is undeniable.

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Chevy aims to out-pony the Mustang with its new Camaro (w/ historical sales)

Following months of teasers Chevrolet finally revealed the all-new Camaro, and a handsome beast it is too! It also represents the best trend in recent years among car-makers: to make the new-gen cars smaller and lighter. Here it scores some major points over the Ford Mustang, which grew both larger and heavier in the new generation, making it less of a pony and more of a slightly overweight steed. The Camaro, on the other hand, looks lean, mean, and ready for action!
2016-Chevrolet-Camaro-07

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