US car sales analysis 2017 Q4 – Small Sports segment

Fiat 124 Spyder and Mazda MX-5 grow fastest as collapse in Hyundai Veloster sales drags the segment down

Sales in the small sports segment collapse by 55.6% to 7,807 in the fourth quarter of 2017, leading to the highest-among-all-segments year-on-year sales decline in 2017 of 36.9%. Such a decline brought the total sales in 2017 down to 45,911, the lowest level since 2010. What is troubling is that while volatile, sales in this segment usually don’t go into full-on decline until the economy goes into a serious recession – while the US economy seems to be going strong for now, it’s curious whether the segment’s decline is a sign of things to come, or simply a swing in a small segment that relies heavily on a few models. In particular, the new Hyundai Veloster has already been shown in Detroit and is about to go on sale in early 2018, but it’s far from clear that it alone will be able to lift the segment out of the doldrums. And right now there are no other new cars on the 2018 horizon.


  • With a collapse in sales of almost 80% in Q4’17, it’s remarkable that Hyundai Veloster managed to hold onto the segment lead; more than anything, it highlights the slowdown in demand for the Mazda MX-5 Miata, whose sales were down 3% in the fourth quarter despite the new RF targa model joining the lineup
  • The recently-facelifted Toyota 86 (née Scion FR-S) and Subaru BRZ did well to avoid a big drop in sales given the shrinking segment and competition from the newer MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spyder

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

  • Speaking of, sales of the still-new Fiat 124 Spider already started falling quarter-on-quarter, with double-digit declines in Q3 and Q4’17, though it should be said that it did well in 2017 to outsell the Subaru BRZ, and come reasonably close to the Buick Cascada
  • 2017 saw the end of the line for two cars in the segment: the slow and rather un-sporty hybrid Honda CR-Z, and the Scion tC, which unlike its RWD cousin FR-S was not adopted by the Toyota brand when Scion was shut town

Note: clicking on the model names in legend turns the display for that model on/off; data is displayed from 1990 onwards, but starts earlier – access previous years using slider on bottom