By on October 8, 2011

Thought the Midsized segment was heating up in September? A mere 633 units separate the Cruze and Corolla in their battle to become the best-selling Compact in America for 2011. And the way Elantra and Jetta are moving up the chart, this segment could could get a lot more interesting by the end of the year. In fact, the Focus’s weak performance this month makes it vulnerable to the Jetta in the Year-to-Date sweepstakes, despite appearing to be a strong entry in the segment. Back in July it was reported that Focus production was being slowed due to problems with a supplier of dashboard skins. At the time, a Ford dealer told the Associated Press

I know they’re working 24/7 trying to address whatever component issues they have. It’s a high-visibility issue with Ford Motor Co., and senior management is very concerned and very involved.

So, is there still a supply problem, or is the Focus just not selling? A quick look at inventory data shows that Focus started September with a 33 days supply and ended with a 74-day supply, which implies that any supply problems were solved last month. Going forward, the Focus should find its sales stride… or it will become another scalp on the Jetta’s belt.

 

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56 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: Compact Cars In September...”


  • avatar
    SV

    Considering how well the new Focus was selling at first (20-22k units back in May and June, and I’m guessing that was mostly 2012s) I’m thinking it’s a supply problem. 74 days’ supply at the end of September means the problem’s been solved, so October sales should finally be a true indicator of how well it’s doing.

  • avatar
    Mr. Spacely

    I also wonder if people simply like the Cruze’s looks a little more? I gotta say, the Cruze sedan looks quite a bit nicer and better proportioned than the Focus sedan. (Focus hatch looks great, though).

    Speaking of looks — and if this is an actual issue in the Focus vs. Cruze battle — I’m very curious to see how America responds to the new Escape.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I think that the relatively high price point on the Focus is chasing buyers into a Fusion or perhaps the Cruze/Jetta/Elantra. Will be interested to see how the new Dodge C-segment sedan does, with the Caliber replaced, they’ve got no where to go but up!

  • avatar
    mjz

    The Japanese one-two punch of Corolla and Civic look like they’re finally down for the count. Corolla is just plain ancient and the new Civic is a dull dud. Nissan is a real non-player with the current Sentra. Mazda3 should start to pick up with less goofy grilles and SkyActiv engine option.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I’m glad that the compact segment is getting more interesting (not that I would wish anything bad upon Honda or Toyota).

      “I, for one, welcome our new (compact car) overlords.”

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      considering the Civic is a redesign for this year, it’s numbers are really bad, this proves that American given a good domestic product to choose over imports, will make the choice.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Perhaps Herr Piech WILL achieve his evil plan for global domination afterall. Truly shocking is that the Jetta was 3rd best seller in this segment in September. So much for all the pundits complaining about the crappy interior plastics and less than cutting edge technology. Will be interested to see if the new Passat has similiar results in the mid-size segment.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I too am surprised by how the Jetta sells. If you add Golf/GTi sales (which would be consistent with Hatch/Sedan Focus, Hatch/Sedan Mazda 3 and Corolla/Matrix) then the Jetta/Golf moves to 4th YTD. As for the Passat I think that gets expensive very quickly so I would be surprised if it replicates the Jetta’s success but who knows!

      Cruze should be able to maintain this pace in 2012 and onwards if they add the hatchback and the diesel – that then covers all bases. Any news on whether there will be a Cruze SS/Sport model?

      Glad to see the Mazda 3 selling more and as mjz said with the improved engines and fuel economy they should improve sales further.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Perhaps the Fiesta is cutting into Focus sales? I have seen fully loaded Fiestas with an MSRP of $21,000 – well into Focus territory.

    • 0 avatar
      solracer

      WRT the Fiesta they did do an early switch-over from 2011 to 2012 at the plant in Mexico so it’s possible that supply was somewhat constrained. As far as the Focus goes remember last year Ford was blowing the old model out the door at fire-sale prices so it’s a little hard to do a direct comparison.

      Personally I think some of the problem with Focus sales is that a lot of dealers (at least in my area) are ordering them fully-loaded which drives the price up and makes it likely that they are equipped with the optional full-size spare which really cuts into luggage space (the Focus has less space with the full-size spare than the Fiesta does with it’s space-saver).

      BTW I am a Fiesta owner and I’ve convinced several of my friends to buy one so at least I’m doing my part!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    All the predictions a year ago about how the Cruze wouldn’t sell, Americans will never spend $20K on a C-Segment car, etc. etc. etc.

    It seems pretty likely that the Cruze will be the top selling C-Segment car for 2011. Toyota doesn’t have a lot of profit margin on the Corolla to begin with, and already has cash on the hood.

    Take out fleet sales and it will show a different picture – but there can be no doubt – the Cruze is a sales success.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Guess I’ll never own a Focus, though several drives in rented ones made me want one. Five years ago, I went to a dealer and tried to buy one, but none were available with manual transmission, side air bags and ABS (all listed as available options). So I bought another VW with these as standard equipment.

    The latest Focus may be a great car underneath the skin, but it’s terminally overstyled. Looks like it spent too many weeks on the drafting table, doodled on by a designer who cut his teeth on running shoe decorations. Then he passed it to the dashboard designer, who made his mark drawing cheap plastic boom boxes. Combine that with the low-roofed extremelining, and I’m out before I can even get in.

    Too bad– we’re looking for a car like that now. My wife keep spotting old Focus hatchbacks on the road, and asking “What’s that?” I have to tell her that it’s a 10-year-old car that lacks modern safety gear. But what a clean design the first Focus had, modern but elegant, clean and still fresh a decade later.

    • 0 avatar
      Dipstick

      I like your description of the new Focus – indeed it does look overdone stylistically – but the old one left the same impression on me when it first came out. Later they fixed the interior which in the beginning looked really messy. Maybe we’ll be impressed with this new Focus ten years from now…

  • avatar
    mjz

    Focus buyers don’t appear to be going to the Fiesta, which only sold about 900 more units than last year for a total of about 4,000 (that’s got to be kind of dissapointing to Ford too). However, the Fusion had a record month in September, and sold about 3,600 more units than last year, totaling 19,500. That’s where the Focus buyers are going. I agree with Wheatridger, the new Fiesta/Focus models seem over-styled and over-priced as well. It will be interesting to see if the new Sonic does to the Fiesta what the Cruze is doing to the Focus. Ford should be getting a little worried. Their “premium” design and pricing seems to be meeting resistance from the buying public.

    • 0 avatar
      Hildy Johnson

      Maybe Ford likes the place they are in, focusing on margins rather than volume. That said, maybe they should consider rounding out their model range at the affordable end.

      Agree on the styling – Ford needs to fix it. Their designs are too incoherent, both on the individual cars and across the model line-up. Their Evos concept looked kind of cool, but it was again overstyled and too much of an Audi clone to be convincing.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        how can it be both overstyled AND an Audi clone? Not trying to be rude, but I am curious about how you come to this conclusion. I think Audi’s aren’t anywhere near being overstyled–actually, I think they are the brand with the least amount of that going on.

        I very much agree with you about rounding out the model range.

      • 0 avatar
        Hildy Johnson

        OK not a clone then – but I thought the front end looked too similar to the upcoming A3.

  • avatar

    I had a Cruze rental and was rather surprised how big it was. That vehicle is anything but “compact”. Fiesta is compact. Spark is possibly a subcompact (didn’t have it rented thus far). I think people just like big cars at the price of small cars.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I just had a Cruze rental too and it had more than enough room for 3 adult men and their carry on bags. Drove from the Pittsburgh, PA airport to State College and back and only added 9 gallons of gasoline. Much more practical than previous GM economy cars because there is enough legroom for adults and sedan with separate trunk provides a secure place to store laptop computers. A real car in a practical size and attractive proportions that happens to get excellent mileage on cheap 87 octane gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The Cruze is pretty much straddling the border between compact and midsize, much like the ’90s Altima or the late ’80s Camry. Pretty much the same interior room as the Malibu, and gets better mileage at a lower real cost. The new Malibu is supposed to be shorter than the current model, so it may end up crashing into the upward-aspiring Cruze.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Focus inventory just filled out to decent levels this month. Ford also just put a solid lease program on the Focus for the start of the 4th quarter – before the residuals and rates were pretty low and high respectively, which is typical for new Ford model releases, the lease deals wait until Ford Credit gets an idea how the vehicle will sell.

    There is a lot of overlap between the top end of the Focus and the low end of the Fusion currently. With the bigger rebates and 0% financing on the Fusion it’s possible to get one for a lower payment than a Focus, and some people would rather have the bigger car. The same thing happened when the Fiesta launched during the last year of the old Focus. When the new Fusion comes out next year with a higher price and less incentives it will push more people back down to the Focus.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Having to discount the leases surely will not improve Ford’s profitability. High residuals may be fine now but wait until you have to buy back all those cars at the residual value …

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        There’s a difference between an artificially high residual and a high residual from a car that just retains value well. Ford Credit tends to err on the side of caution with new models and set lease residuals lower than they should be, and then adjust them up to proper levels when there is some evidence available for what the resale value on the car should be. The Focus doesn’t have lease cash or rebates on top of the residual change, Ford just (finally) set it appropriately so that the Focus can be leased competitively against the Civic and Cruze.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Ford’s two best sellers (excluding trucks) were the long-in-the-tooth Fusion and Escape. Neither of which have received the “kinetic” design treatment or premium pricing strategy of their newer siblings. Ford’s marketing people ought to be concerned about that.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      It will be interesting once the new Fusion is out. I am wondering how they will make it competitive price-wise. Since it will be largely the same as the European Mondeo and we know European mid-size cars would typically be in the high $20K’s – like the old Passat, the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal and the euro Honda Accord/Honda TSX.
      Margins rather than volume is the best course but I can see why they might get concerned. Also the Escape gets replaced in the near future too, so by 2013 we may start to have an answer to his.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    The Ford Focus’ position in the market vs the Jetta has been reversed. Jetta used to be sold as a ‘slightly premium’ compact car, priced slightly higher than the competition, but feels like a more expensive car in return, nicer interior material and all. Now Jetta is a mainstream compact, while the Focus is the one playing the ‘slightly more expensive but you get a nicer car’ game, and the position has reversed. Maybe that’s the natural order of things. Might not be all that bad for Ford, though, if they earn more profit per each Focus sold.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    If GM could move the Cruze to a quicker refresh cycle and trim the weight, they could establish a pretty could long term foothold here. Who’d thunk.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      It is possible since the Cruze debuted elsewhere a couple of years before the US. So if they refreshed it in the US when they refresh it elsewhere that might be just 2 years away (assuming 4-5 years for a mid cycle refresh).

      • 0 avatar
        alluster

        I hope they do a refresh soon to fix the ugly taillights. They managed to mess up the rear on an otherwise handsome car. Same goes for the Malibu, Sonic and Traverse. GM should fire all designers who designed the rear of these cars, and hire buick designers who’ve made the best looking taillight designs. If i had to buy a cruze, id first replace the taillights with these

        http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/11-appearance-body/1069-benz-e-class-style-tail-light-review-more-_.html

      • 0 avatar

        Focus rear end looks ugly too. I never sat in Jetta but it looks nice and elegant outside and yes has a kind of premium look. Focus looks like boy-racer car in comparison. I have original Focus – it is full of cost cutting but chassis is impressive for FWD car. I can imagine how new Focus is an excellent car if only they would design it to be more elegant and look less ugly.

        Corolla and Civic look like ancient designs. Corolla always was a rental grade car but Civic was kind of cool car with high revving engine and low ride. Not anymore.

  • avatar
    changsta

    I think that the Cruze and Jetta are selling well due to pricing, as most of the examples I’ve seen on the road have been base to mid-level trims. This indicates to me that the buyers of these cars are shopping on price. In contrast, most of the Focus’ that I’ve seen on the road have been Titanium or SEL models. Ford’s profit margin on these models is much higher, and so I’d say Ford’s strategy is probably better thought out. I’d be interested to see a chart that breaks down the percentage of trim level sold, as this is a better indication of profit.

    Having said that, one potential reason the Focus may not be selling as well is rear seat leg room. The Focus is tight in the rear seat, and the Fiesta is even tighter. This is a pretty glaring oversight. I understand that good driving dynamics, and premium interior materials were a priority, but shouldn’t someone have been comparing the rear seat leg room figures of the competitors? The front seat back of the Focus seems unnecessarily thick, and I think if it was carved out in a more efficient manner, they could have added a few inches of knee room. Ford’s new designs don’t appear to pay much attention to the rear seat, and I hope this trend does not continue with the upcoming models: Fusion and Escape. This would be especially detrimental to Escape, since I believe the Escape sells well mainly because it is packaged very efficiently. It certainly is not a leader in terms of style or interior materials…

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      +1 – I am looking at replacing my Subaru Legacy and the Focus I seriously considered but the lack of rear legroom is a deal breaker. The Jetta has about 4 inches more and in GLi spec fixes most of the issues with the current Jetta (interior quality and suspension).
      The C-Max may fix the issue for Ford as this is a compact car but should be more practical than the Focus (legroom, shoulder room etc) if by only an inch or two.

      As for your observation of spec level, most of the Focuses I have seen have be SE – which is what I would have gone with plus sports package. As for price the base Cruze is around a $1000 less than the base Focus sedan but is manual vs automatic (a manual Focus is available for the same price). So I don`t think Ford is pricing much higher – just going to higher levels like Titanium.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      While I agree that the Focus’ rear seat room is a weakness, I don’t think it can be impacting sales much – the Cruze isn’t any better, for example.

  • avatar
    eldard

    Bland sells in Amerika. All hail Jetta!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    So VW management appears to be right. Build a more mediocre car, sell it more cheaply, and America is your market. Welcome to WalMart nation!

  • avatar
    ninjacoco

    I’m surprised that the Lancer is off the bottom of the main graphic. I see more of those here than I do the new Focus, but then I guess they’ve had a few years of the same model to throw my eyes off. Still, Mitsu, y u no sell moar? I like mine.

  • avatar
    alluster

    The Corolla will regain its sales lead by the end this year, considering its about 3000$ cheaper on average. The Miss. plant goes online in a week and will start cranking out more of them, thus increasing supply and further reducing prices. The Cruze has been on market exactly one year (introduced in Sep 2010 when it sold a paltry 500 units) and is already the sales leader. It sold 95,000 more units so far this year than the Cobalt.

    http://picturepush.com/photo/a/6706989/img/6706989.bmp

    Average transaction price after incentives, rounded to the nearest 100.

    Focus $20,600
    Cruze $20,200
    Elantra $19,900
    Mazda 3 $19,400
    Civic $18,800
    Sentra $18,600
    Corolla $18,000

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Focus is averaging barely higher than the Cruze … at just over $20K there can’t be that many Titanium Foci being sold. And Cruzes aren’t all base models, either.

      I am curious about the transaction prices for the Jetta, though, given that they specifically focused on a low entry price.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The Corolla’s level of decontenting is why the price is low. It’s MPG rating is at the back of the pack, along with 0 to 60 times. Its 4-speed automatic works against it and compared to the newer engines found in the latest competitors the Toyota 1.8 mill is coarse.

      It isn’t Corolla vs. Cruze.

      It is Corolla vs. Cruze, Elantra, Forte, Focus and Jetta in the C-Segment.

      Ya, its cheaper – but American car buyers are making it very clear, they are more than willing to spend $22K on a Cruze, $24K for a Focus, and $25K for a Jetta (that is the ATP for the new 2011 Jetta, regardless of the $16K entry level price).

      They want heated leather seats, navigation, six-speed transmissions, 40 MPG economy, and advanced ride/handing that the Corolla doesn’t offer.

      The 2011 refresh was a big mistake.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        Real-world fuel economy on the Corolla is very strong. I drove one as a long rental about two years ago, and got 36 mpg with about 20% suburban driving mixed with highway.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        36 mpg with a 20% mix of suburban isn’t that good. My dad gets 35 mpg in his Cruze with 50/50 split. Now, the differences are really pretty small when you look at how much money you actually save with one vs the other on fuel economy. It is more mental, getting the highest MPG you can is really important to people right now, although they haven’t done the math on what you are actually saving.

        33 mpg to 40 mpg sounds like a lot, till you figure out it saves you $2 for 100 miles. Over a year… about $200 bucks. For that difference, get the car you want.

        But, right now, the Corolla is rated for 34 mpg highway (auto). Cruze is rated for 36 highway with an auto, and 38 next year. That isn’t including the eco models that get a bit more.

        Toyota really needs to do something about the poor EPA rating of the Corolla for it to compete. They might be doing something this year. The 2012 Corolla isn’t up on the EPA site.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    A friend of mine had an F250 that he really didn’t need anymore, as he had sold his trailer and ATVs, etc. He decided to get something that would really be good on gas. He had dreams of 30MPG going through his head and ~30 buck fill ups. So he buys a Focus. I told him to drive one for a day, not just a 15 minute test drive, to avoid my experience with my ’99 Grand Cherokee Seats KILLED my back!), but he ignored my advice, and bought it. I drove a friend’s wife’s Focus, and I would never have bought one. I like shoulder room, and a good looking car is important to me, too important to buy something like a Focus.

    He really liked it, for about 2 days, then he started having back pains every time he was in it more than 20 minutes or so. Two weeks later, it was gone, replaced by a new F150 4X4, with the Ecoboost V6. His little experiment only cost him about $1000 and a Chiropractor visit. So ends his affair with compact cars. He’s not alone, I know several other people who got little car fever and they ended up stuck in a car they hate, or have to take a hit on to get rid of. If your back is hurting, the car has to go, but I suppose you learn to tolerate anything less torturous.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Cruze looks best in what color? White?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    While it only took them a half-century to do it, GM may have finally gotten it right on doing a decent compact car. All the reviews seem to agree that the Cruze can go toe-to-toe with the Corolla and Civic, and sales seem to be reflecting that. The Cruzes on dealer lots aren’t mainly the loaded LTZ, but the more reasonably priced, middle-of-the-road LT models where higher volume makes up for lower profit margins. Although some may bemoan the lack of a Cruze hatchback, the sedan is what most people seem to want (there isn’t a Civic hatchback, nor, technically, a Corolla hatchback, either). If someone wants a compact hatchback from GM, they can always go for a smaller Sonic (which GM wisely chose to wait on introducing).

    Ford, OTOH, seems to have fumbled a bit with the new Focus. First, they introduced the Fiesta before the new Focus. With the Fiesta’s ‘old Focus’ pricing (and similiar body styles), when the new Focus came along, Ford had little choice but to put loaded Focuses on the lot to keep them out of Fiesta sales territory. Coupled with polarizing styling and some quality concerns, new Focus sales just aren’t where they could be, despite having a product every bit as competitive as the Cruze.

    Regardless, sales figures indicate that both GM and Ford now have products in the compact market segment that (initially, anyway) seem to be every bit as good as similiar offerings from Toyota and Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Half a century?
      Hmm, 1961 until now. Well, there was the Corvair, which was universally praised by the auto press at the time. Ralph Nader’s unfortunate rag will one day rank right up there with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth for reactionary writing. The Nova was received well and sold well.
      The Chevette was the best selling vehicle in America in the late 1970s, selling numbers that only the Taurus and Camry would later attain. Nobody will list the Chevette on their Ten Best list, but they were American-made, RWD, simple as a skateboard and loved by legions of auto cross drivers. You will still find these hoary beasts in dusty small towns throughout South America.
      Again, playing revisionist history is a fool’s game. The Vega had its issues because GM was (again) flexing its engineering prowess and deep resources on a vehicle that essentially failed. The Corvair almost fell to the same fate, but many serious critics came to the aid of the little rear-engined Chevy, right up to the year GM cancelled it.
      When comparing a vehicle from the past, you absolutely must stack it up against its peers of the day, not the BMW you drove at the time, or your Mini Cooper you’re driving today.
      I drove many a ’81 K-car and a former flame had a ’81 Tercel. No doubt in my mind that I would choose the K-car over the crappy little Toyota any day.

    • 0 avatar
      eldard

      Yes. And they had to have Korean help.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I can’t believe the Jetta’s that high and the Impreza’s that low.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Could be that most people interested in an Impreza have heard about (or even seen photos of) the new-for-2012 redesign and have decided to wait for it. I have to credit Subaru with a quick turnaround, giving the current Impreza only 4 years (although evidently the WRX/STi will continue on the current body) – it seems like it’s been many years since a Japanese car generation was that brief.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        @Gottacook
        Subaru better turn their redesigns around quickly right now. They may be the automaker most endangered by CAFE rules and market interest in fuel economy.

        I’m in the early stages of shopping for a commuter car, and plan to drive the new Impreza when it comes out. I’m not all that optimistic about having enough legroom in it, though.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “I can’t believe the Jetta’s that high and the Impreza’s that low”

      Well, let’s see. A cheapo interior that falls shy of the Jetta despite it’s decontenting, and has less interior space. Mandatory AWD that both drives up the MSRP and helps keep fuel economy in the basement, well below most midsizers. I can see why the Jetta has greater appeal for more people.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    I just can’t understand why anyone still would buy a GM car. Reputation, anyone? Short memories? “Buy ‘Murrican” parents erroneously telling their children that they must buy GM? Bunch of crazy idiots out there.


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