US car sales analysis 2018 – Large segment

Segment shrinks to a third of what it once was, as new models fail to spark sales revival

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Sales in the US Large segment fell by 18.9% to 317,289 in 2018, a third of the 2006 peak of over 1,000,000 cars, and their lowest level in over 30 years. Arguably, this segment is pummeled by a perfect storm of factors buffeting the market: (1) move from traditional sedans to crossovers (2) move from mainstream manufacturers to luxury ones (3) ongoing growth of cars within each segment, resulting in models from segments below pulling in customers from segments above it. At this point, the mainstream Large segment seems to have two paths available to it: either it will continue shrinking as it offers the same kind of cars it’s been serving up to buyers over the past few decades, or it will develop something truly unique that buyers will want, as FCA has done with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.

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

Highlights:

  • The new Toyota Avalon was the only model whose sales rose in 2018, but even this hardly-spectacular figure masks a downward trend – while the model saw its sales rise by 16.5% in the first half of the year, this turned into a 11.1% sales decline in the second half of the year
  • The FCA duo, the segment-leading Dodge Charger and third-placed Chrysler 300, saw their sales fall by just 9%, a performance that should be viewed as a “win” given the models’ age and the overall trend in the market
  • Nissan Maxima was the biggest loser, seeing its sales drop by more than a third, allowing the Chrysler 300 to push it off the podium (the 79% sales decline for the Hyundai Azera is due to the model’s discontinuation mid-2018)
  • The aging Ford Taurus did well to lose only 12% of its sales, propped no doubt by fleet sales
  • The new Buick LaCrosse saw its sales fall by over 20%, meaning that just like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in the segment below, the new model failed to improve on the previous-generation car, while the new Kia Cadenza ended up its second year on the market much where the previous-generation model ended its run two years prior

Note: clicking on the model names in legend turns the display for that model on/off; data is displayed from 1990 onwards, but starts in 1973 – access previous years using slider on bottom

  1. Segment is clearly struggling, but I envy the Americans, because unlike Europeans they can still buy large cars (i.e. E segment) from mainstream brands. Only Toyota dares to re-introduce the Camry in Europe. Finally!

  2. I think you massively fail to see what’s happening. People are buying Teslas.

    No Tesla in the segment? People switch to a segment with a Tesla, or they defer purchasing and wait for a Tesla to come to the segment, possibly buying a used car in the meantime to tide themselves over.

    It’s strange how completely many websites seem to either be ignoring or missing this.

    Take a poll of would-be buyers – the people with leases ending or 3-7 year old vehicles. Ask if they’re buying, and if not, why not.

    It’s not necessarily Tesla exactly – they may be content with another vehicle with all the same features, but realistically, nobody else even has a proper competitor in the pipeline. They’ve maybe got something electric, maybe charges quickly, or crazy performance, or OTA updates, or full self driving, or an attractive design, and maybe they check a few of the boxes, but nobody is checking all of the boxes.

    My money is probably on Cadillac… GM has a lot of the right features in their autonomous Bolt prototype, except the Bolt isn’t particularly quick (to move or charge) or attractive… but given a few years, I think they could fix all that with the upcoming Cadillac EV…

    1. “I think you massively fail to see what’s happening. People are buying Teslas”. Excuse me? People? THE people? What’s Tesla’s US market share? 2%? 2,35%

      1. Tesla is production constrained, so that marketshare represents their current ability to build cars, not people’s desire for them.

        Tesla received 500K orders for their cars in just two weeks in 2016. I was one of them. My purchase wasn’t reflected in 2016 or 2017, because Tesla didn’t produce my car in either of those years – they got it to me in 2018.

        They’re still badly production constrained, and likely will be for years to come until they’re producing (tens of) millions of vehicles per year.

        Tesla has stolen millions of buyers from other segments – they’re all people waiting in line now, meaning those sales won’t actually pop up to look like a relevant volume for years.

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