Segment shrinks by 15% as customers abandon it for crossovers
Sales in the US mid-sized segment fell by 17.9% to 453,359 in the fourth quarter of 2017, and by 15.1% to 1,963,757 for 2017 as a whole – the first time the segment has dipped below the 2 million mark since 2010. What’s more, the malaise is pretty much evenly spread amongst all models, with only one model seeing its sales rise in the final quarter of the year, and one for the year overall. The hope for 2018 is that the new Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, as well as the soon-to-debut Nissan Altima replacement, will help step the outflow of customers towards crossovers. Unfortunately, the signs are not good – pretty much all of the new cars revealed in the past two years have seen their sales fall by 20% or more. In the end, it seems that mid-sized segment is due for more pain in coming years as the market readjusts to the new normal.
Toyota Camry was the only model to register positive growth in the fourth quarter of 2017, with the 14.7% sales rise helping it pretty much retain its sales level in 2017, no small feat given how the segment did overall
Honda Accord fell behind its arch-rival Camry, driven in large part to a 17.0% drop in sales in the final quarter of the year, suggesting Honda has had a rocky handover to the new model; nonetheless, the Accord was the third-best performing model in the segment in 2017
Subaru Outback was the only model to record positive growth in 2017 overall, growing by 3.3%; interestingly, the importance of its quasi-crossover positioning is emphasized by the contrast to the fortunes of its Legacy sister, which lost a whopping 23.7% in 2017 despite being introduced at the same time as the Outback
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
Pretty much the whole rest of the core models in the segment suffered in 2017, with rates of decline ranging from low teens (Kia Optima, sales down 13.5%) all the way to Hyundai Sonata‘s sales collapse of more than a third
The sales declines are potentially less worrying for soon-to-be-replaced models such as Nissan Altima, which will hope to close down the gap to the leaders to closer to what it was in 2012 (see historic chart below), and more worrying for new models such as the aforementioned Optima, Sonata, Legacy or Malibu, as well as those cars whose replacements are still some time off (Ford Fusion, VW Passat)
At the back of the standings rest a series of cars with narrower appeal that are about to be replaced (Buick Regal, VW CC), alongside failed models that will not be replaced (interestingly, this includes the quasi-crossover Toyota Venza and Honda Crosstour, two models that tried but failed to appeal to the customers choosing the Outback)
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
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