Sales in the compact segment grew by 1% compared to 2014, a better performance than in either the minicar or subcompact segments, thought still behind the industry average of 5% growth. With the latest crop of compact cars being large enough to accommodate a whole family sales in this segment are less sensitive to gas prices – consumers are less likely to migrate to the segments above simply because they no longer need an economic car now that gas is super-cheap. For many people a compact car is all they need.
As it has been for many year now, the battle at the front is between the two Japanese heavyweights: Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. This year, it’s the Corolla that got the edge, growing its sales by 7% compared to the Civic’s 3%. However, the Civic went through a model changeover in Q4 2015, and now it’ll be interesting to see which model comes out on top in the first quarter of 2016. If I was a betting man I would probably plump for the well-received new Civic, especially now that I’ve seen it on the street and realized just how much more interesting-looking it is than most other cars in this segment.
The cars ranked 3rd through 6th are all pretty close in terms of outright sales, but while some picked up sales in 2015 others lost quite a bit. The Chevy Cruze is definitely in the latter camp, losing 17% of its sales compared to 2014, and showing that the new model that will go on sale soon will be here just in time. Another loser is the Ford Focus, which lost 8% despite the fact that it was facelifted earlier in the year. On the other side, the Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Sentra both gained around 10% in sales, a feat all the more remarkable given that the former is about to be replaced with an entirely new model, while a facelifted version of the latter is only now about to go on sale.
2015 was never going to be easy on VW in the US, not with an aging lineup and lackluster facelifts, but the company made it much worse through Dieselgate. As a result, both the 7th-placed Jetta and the 14th-placed Beetle lost around 20% of sales compared to 2014. However, in what is clearly the performance of the year, VW’s third compact model, the Golf, almost made up the difference by finding 94% more homes in 2015 than it did the year prior. With the models designed specifically for the US market (Jetta, Beetle, Passat) struggling and its international models (Golf, Tiguan) flourishing, it’ll be interesting to see whether VW gives up making models that specifically cater to local tastes. One thing is for sure – the Chinese-market VW Lamando would make a much more attractive Jetta than the current stodgy model.
Elsewhere in the segment, winners include the Subaru Impreza (sales up 20%, and up to 9th spot at the Dodge Dart’s expense) and the Kia Forte (sales up 14%), while losers include Buick Verano (sales down 27%, and losing a spot to the Golf) and the Fiat 500L (sales down 37%). While a new Verano will be on its way soon, I’m curious how long the awkwardly-shaped Fiat will last in the market. With fewer than 8,000 sales per year Fiat has got to wonder whether it would not be better to pull the model, and hope it can capture more customers with the much trendier 500X.
Note: clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off