In this section of the blog, you can find information and opinions about car sales in the United States. Stay up-to-date with which cars are selling the best and what we think future models will do.
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US sales 2015 first half Premium Large segment

US premium large

The US Large Premium segment shrank by 13% year-on-year, the largest decline from among the Premium segments and the third largest from among the 25 segments we keep track of. Part of the reason may be that the segment leaders are aging, but overall there may be a shift away from the segment towards the smaller but ever-so-capable Premium Mid-sized offerings. It will be interesting to see how much the market will recover once the new BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class hit the market.

Lexus ES

For now, the market leader remains the Lexus ES, going strong in its fourth year on the market. For the European readers among you – not sure what the ES is? It is basically the last mainstream car that Lexus targets unashamedly at older customers, with its comfy suspension setting, homely FWD underpinnings from the Toyota Avalon and the softest version of its divisive design language. Even though Lexus may be chasing BMWs these days the ES remains popular with its target audience – while it lost 12% of sales in doing so it actually retained its share of the segment, and there is a facelift arriving in the second half of 2015.

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US sales 2015 first half Premium Mid-sized segment

US premium mid-sizedThe Premium Mid-sized segment grew by a healthy 10% year-on-year, a better performance than all the Premium segments combined (3%) or the market as a whole (4%). The growth is driven not just by the good performance of the new entrants into the segment (Mercedes-Benz C class, Lexus RC, Acura TLX), but also by the growth in sales of the evergreen BMW 3/4 series. In fact, this may well be one of the “freshest” from among the established segments, with only the aging Audi A4/A5 and Volvo 60 series being more than 4 years old. Such a healthy growth rate widens the lead the Premium Mid-sized segment has over the Premium Large segment, outselling the larger cars by more than 3-to-2, and that lead is only likely to increase when the new A4 enters the market.

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US sales 2015 first half Premium Compact segment

US premium compact

The Premium Compact segment is not only the fastest growing of the Premium segments, it is one of the fastest growing segments overall with a year-on-year growth of 59%. The largest contributor to this growth is the Audi A3, which has been selling like hot cupcakes ever since Audi introduced the sedan version (as if more evidence was needed that US consumers love sedans). In fact, it grew so quickly that it surpassed the Mercedes-Benz CLA to grab the #1 spot, despite the former being the slightly more established market player. This gives Audi a rare segment lead in the US, a place where usually BMW and Mercedes-Benz duke it out for the top spot, with Audi at best a distant third.

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US sales 2015 first half Minivan segment

US minivan

The Minivan segment continued its decline, with sales down 15% compared to the same period in 2014 – the second largest fall after the Mid-sized segment. This does not necessarily mean that the US has fallen out of love with the segment it invented (no matter what Matra/Renault may claim). Sure, more and more people switch away from boring minivans away to SUVs, but this is also one of the “oldest” segments – full of cars either trying to hold on with a facelift (Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey) or cars on their way out (Chrysler T&C, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mazda5). In fact, once the new generation of the Fiat Chrysler Automotive minivan hits the market I would not bet against it dragging the segment sales up.

Chrysler T&CPointing to a market leader is not straightforward in the Minivan segment. While the single best-selling model is the Toyota Sienna, the Chrysler T&C and Dodge Grand Caravan are so similar that oftentimes they are thought of as the same model (and may in fact be replaced by a single model) – if you do that, than their combined sales are still tops at 75,840. Still, with a year-on-year fall in sales of 47% it may not hold onto the lead for long, especially that the Sienna actually grew in sales by 15%, a great performance given that its recent facelift was of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety.

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US sales 2015 first half Minicar segment

US miniThe Minicar segment is one of the smallest ones in the US, both in terms of sales and the number of models offered (only five in the US, compared to 30 in Europe!). This reflects the fact that, for the vast majority of users in the US, cars as small as this are simply too small; rather, they are bought by a very narrow group of city-dwelling consumers. In addition, due to fringe positioning the Minicar segment in the US ranges from the cheapest new car on sale (the Mitsubishi Mirage) all the way to the premium MINI.

MINI CooperThe segment grew by 9% compared to the first half of 2014, though in this case it’s almost weird to talk about averages. Rather, you observe two types of performances – the cars that gained a lot of sales because they’re new, and cars that lost sales because they’re aging. In the former group is the new MINI, which regained its position as market leader on the back of sales that rose by 62%, no doubt helped by the arrival of the ungainly but popular 5-door model. Its main rival, Fiat 500, saw its sales fall 15% year-on-year and stayed in #3, making the incoming facelift all the more important.

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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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