Subcompact cars are quickly losing market share in the US, with a 42% decline in sales in the first quarter of 2020, which is the largest decline of all segments across the market, with only large cars even close at -38% and an overall market declining 13%. As a result, the segment has gone from a 2.5% share of the US car market last year to just 1.6% now. Low fuel prices and the ever-increasing popularity of crossovers are of course the main factors for this decline, but also a lack of new product.
The Kia Soul consolidates its segment leadership despite losing over a third of its sales, as its nearest rival Nissan Versa is down by more than half, due to a model changeover to the new generation which coincides with Nissan’s commitment to reduce fleet sales to rental companies, for which the Versa was a staple product. The brand is chasing lower volume at higher margins to improve resale values but in the meantime it will take a haircut in the rankings. For us it will be interesting to see what the real retail demand is for its products, provided the company will be able to maintain this strategy even when the overall market is in crisis and stockpiles are running high. The Honda Fit and Kia Rio are the only nameplates in the subcompact car segment to improve their sales on last year. The Fit is in the last stage of its life cycle, with the new generation already on the roads in its home market Japan, but the brand has yet to decide whether to bring that new model to the US as well. Considering how quickly this segment is in decline and the continued improved performance of the Fit’s crossover sibling H-RV, we fear the worst. The Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta are already on their way out the door, as is the Fiat 500L, which would leave this segment an all-Asian buffet. Surprisingly, Toyota is one of the weakest players in this segment, as the Yaris sedan is decimated with a 90% decline, and the all-new Yaris Hatchback version even outsold the sedan by a 2-to-1 margin in Q1.
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