Sales of compact cars in the United States are down by a worrying 16% in 2019, and the segment is down 1.6 percentage points of share of the total US car market, to 9.7%. It now holds 35% of the sedan market in the US, down from 36.8% in 2018. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla consolidate their leadership thanks to stable sales while their closest two rivals both see their sales drop by double digits. The Civic and Corolla are now not only the only two nameplates to sell over 300,000 cars each, but also the only ones to sell over 200,000 cars, with the Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra both dropping below that threshold as both are down by 13%. The Civic and Corolla together hold 38% of the compact car segment (39.7% of non-luxury compact cars), up from 32% in 2018. We lose three members of the 100k sales club, as the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze have been killed by their manufacturers and the Kia Forte dropped below that mark despite falling slower than the overall segment. We do welcome a returning member after a 1-year absence with the Jetta back above 100,000 sales again, allowing it to jump from 8th in 2018 to 5th in 2019. Sales of the Toyota Prius continue to drop as the brand keeps introducing hybrid versions of its other models, which results in the nameplate’s lowest sales figure since 2004 after seven years of consecutive declines, from its peak of over 236,000 sales in 2012 to just under 70,000 sales in 2019.

Both Subaru models are down by double digits, but whereas the Impreza manages to do slightly better than the rest of the segment at -13%, the WRX loses almost a quarter of its sales. The Mazda3 is down despite the new model, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the brand has raised its prices considerably with the model change. As a result, sales of especially the base versions have suffered, but the higher end versions have actually gained popularity, meaning Mazda has offered volume for profitability. The Volkswagen Golf is also down but does better than the segment as a whole, despite being in the last year of its current generation. However, these figures hide the fact that 2019 was the best year ever for the e-Golf at 4,863 sales (compared to 5,644 for the regular Golf hatchback, and 12,365 for the Nissan Leaf EV), and the second-best ever year for the Golf R at 4,223 sales, after the 4,493 sales in 2016. VW has not yet announced which versions of the 8th generation Golf will make its Stateside, but the GTI, R and e-Golf are generally expected to survive, while the regular Golf hatchback and SportWagen are expected to be cut. Ford has already abandoned the segment altogether by not bringing the new generation Focus to the US.

The Honda Insight reaches over 23,000 sales in the first full year of the current generation, which is a new record for all three generations of the nameplate and ahead of the Hyundai Ioniq, which improves by 30% to also set a new sales record. Ioniq sales are still for over 90% the hybrid version, with the Plug-in hybrid and EV struggling to find more than a few dozen buyers per month. The VW Beetle, in its last year of production, is up 19%, and this is all thanks to the Convertible version which improves nearly 65% while the Coupe version is down 10.8%. As a result, 2019 is the first year that sales of the topless Beetle have exceeded those of the hardtop version. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is already past its peak at -9% but at least improves its share of the segment, which helps the EV share of the compact car segment improve from 1.9% in 2018 to 2.2% in 2019. The Nissan Leaf EV is down 16%, like the overall segment, while BMW i3 loses 21% and the Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell EV is down 12%.

In the luxury part of the segment, which makes up just 4.4% of the overall compact car class, the newcomer Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan immediately claims the lead with over 17,600 sales, but it cannibalizes sales of the CLA, which is down 45%. It will be interesting to see how these two models compete when the CLA is also renewed in 2020. The Acura ILX enjoys a 30% growth thanks to the facelift and a price cut, but it’s still well below its peak years of 2013-2015. The A-Class and ILX are keeping the luxury compact car segment stable on 2018 as all other nameplates are down by double digits. The Audi A3 is starting to show its age with a decline of 43% but manages to stay ahead of the BMW 2-Series, down 13%.

US compact car sales 2019

Compact segment 2019 2018 Change
1 Honda Civic 325.650 325.760 0%
2 Toyota Corolla 304.840 303.732 0%
3 Nissan Sentra 184.618 213.046 -13%
4 Hyundai Elantra 175.094 200.415 -13%
5 Volkswagen Jetta 100.453 90.805 11%
6 Kia Forte 95.609 101.890 -6%
7 Toyota Prius 69.718 87.591 -20%
8 Subaru Impreza 66.415 76.400 -13%
9 Mazda Mazda3 50.741 64.638 -21%
10 Chevrolet Cruze 47.975 142.617 -66%
11 Volkswagen Golf 37.393 42.271 -12%
12 Honda Insight 23.686 12.510 89%
13 Subaru WRX 21.838 28.730 -24%
14 Hyundai Ioniq 19.574 15.076 30%
15 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan
17.641 0 New
16 Volkswagen Beetle 17.215 14.411 19%
17 Chevrolet Bolt EV 16.418 18.019 -9%
18 Acura ILX 14.685 11.273 30%
19 Ford Focus 12.480 113.345 -89%
20 Mercedes-Benz CLA 12.400 22.556 -45%
21 Nissan Leaf EV 12.365 14.715 -16%
22 Audi A3 10.418 18.305 -43%
23 BMW 2-series 8.015 9.208 -13%
24 Chevrolet Volt 4.910 18.306 -73%
25 BMW i3 4.854 6.117 -21%
26 Mini Clubman 3.565 4.385 -19%
27 Toyota Mirai 1.502 1.700 -12%
28 Fiat 500L 771 1.413 -45%
29 Ford C-Max 38 6.683 -99%
30 Dodge Dart 15 389 -96%
31 Mercedes-Benz B-class EV
8 135 -94%
Segment total 1.660.904 1.966.441 -16%

Source: Manufacturers.

  1. The Honda Civic is actually down 1%, if you round up. (It’s actually 0.999%.) Same goes for the Toyota Corolla, except that it’s going up, and only 0.99%.

  2. I’m surprised to see the Toyota Mirai selling in thousands rather than a few hand full. Still think battery powered cars are a better option, but it looks as if a lot of people are still worried about charging times.

    I’ve read some where that Honda doesn’t do fleet sales at all, so being the bestseller without that massive help is something be praised.

  3. I know I’m going to repeat myself, sorry for that :-P, but I just can not understand why Europeans don’t want to buy these cars. Except for the Corolla which is available as a sedan in Europe (hurray for Toyota!), competitors like the Honda Civic sedan and Mazda3 sedan just don’t seem to fit into the European market. Even VW doesn’t offer the Jetta any more in Germany. Call me confused!
    .
    No, I’m not naive, I’m aware of the popularity of hatchbacks and station wagons in Europe. We own one ourselves (Citroën DS5). Think with me for a second, sedan versions of compact cars in the US are quite large for European standards. First, they are larger than their related hatchbacks meaning more space on average. Second, they have the same size or are even larger compared with former D segment cars from the noughties like the Mazda6 and Renault Laguna which were popular cars back then. So why don’t we buy them? Yeah, yeah, crossover mania, but those are simply heightened hatchbacks or station wagons with higher CO2 emissions. Lots of people, like me and my better half, prefer old school passenger cars.
    .
    Why doesn’t Hyundai offer the Elantra next to the smaller Ioniq? Or do people actually buy the i30 Fastback? Haven’t seen one yet.
    .
    Same goes for the Forte. It would add more value to Kia’s line-up than offering the expensive ProCeed next to the Ceed wagon in my opinion.
    .
    Nissan definitely needs a regular passenger car, because an electric hatchback and a bunch of SUVs clearly aren’t enough. What’s wrong with the nice looking new Sentra? That would be a car we’d consider to buy. It’s sort of in-between segments (C/D): not too small, not too big.
    .
    The Civic sedan is an in-betweener as well, but my better half thinks it’s ugly (she’d even prefer buying an SUV instead). Why doesn’t Honda Europe offer the Insight? Because they simply don’t care about our market would be the best answer. However, I still think they ditched former Civic IMA and Insight drivers and looking at the poor sales of the Civic, it can’t get any worse I’d say. They are not even trying.

    1. All SUVs used to have the same point–a vehicle that can easily cross difficult terrain and tow well while also being able to comfortably seat people. Basically, a do-anything vehicle. However, the only appeal that the majority of SUVs have now is the higher ride height, so you can sit higher up and a feeling of power over other cars. Thing is, with so many SUVs around now, you don’t feel high up at all. Also, lots of SUVs can barely get anywhere off-road. Land Rovers, Jeeps, and most Subarus (because BRZ) can get out there, but SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai/Rogue Sport, Toyota C-HR, and BMW X3 are liable to get stuck. And who goes off road that much anyway?

      I spend most of my time on the road in a 2012 Kia Sedona (Carnival in Europe) and it makes me feel higher up than in a Honda CR-V! To me, if you need three rows, a minivan is best, and if you need just two, and sedan or a wagon could easily fit the bill. SUVs should only be bought if you actually need one.

      Also, sports-SUVs are just plain stupid. Why get one if you could have a better-looking sports car (or coupe, or sedan), that handles better, looks better, and is generally more sensible? Just think of cars like the Mercedes-Benz GLS63 AMG, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, Dodge Durango SRT, and Lamborghini Urus? Why not just get a Mercedes-Benz E63 S AMG Estate, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, or Lamborghini Huracan instead? And don’t get me started on the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. . .

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