US sales analysis 2018 – Compacts

Segment experiences arguably its most drastic sales decline yet

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Sales in the US Compact segment fell by 12.3% to 1,548,650 in 2018, the second sharpest sales decline in the past three decades, less bad only than the 17% sales decline the segment experienced in 2009. The difference is that overall market sales fell by 17.2% in 2009, whereas overall car sales rose in 2018. These two statistics emphasize just how quickly Compacts are being replaced by Compact SUVs as the go-to family cars. Time will tell whether new metal in 2019 will change this trend, but right now the indication is that, much like for the rest of the market, the movement from regular cars to crossovers is set to march on in the foreseeable future.

Note: “AP” designates models that are classified in the Alternative Power segment, presented here for comparison; 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


  • Surprisingly, there was just one change in rankings in the Top 10 (Mazda Mazda3 replacing Volkswagen Golf in 10th), despite greatly varying growth rates
  • The only model in the Top 10 to achieve positive growth was Hyundai Elantra, although the small sales decline experienced by the aging Nissan Sentra should also be counted as a good performance
  • With the exception of the Sentra, the aging and outgoing models experienced the largest sales declines from among the Top 10: Chevrolet Cruze (fall of 21%), Ford Focus (fall of 28%), and Volkswagen Jetta (fall of 22%)
  • Beyond that, however, there were some models whose sales declines were more worrying for their manufacturers: Toyota Prius saw its sales fall by 25% the still-new Chevrolet Bolt EV saw its sales fall by 20%, but it was the almost-halving of sales of the Volkswagen Golf that was most surprising
  • Interestingly, with the exception of the Toyota Corolla hatchback (sales up 11%), the only models to experience meaningful sales growth in 2018 were alternative power models: Toyota Prius PrimeHyundai Ioniq and Nissan Leaf all saw their sales grow by more than 30%, while the new Honda Insight did well to sell 12,500 units in the second half of the year (which was about 60% of the non-plug-in Prius)

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