By on February 2, 2012

One month is far too premature to make any predictions about 2012’s sales race, but we still got our hands on the data, thanks to independent analyst Timothy Cain. As usual, the Ford F-Series and Toyota Camry were the top dogs.

The top 5 best-selling cars were the Camry, followed by the Nissan Altima and the critically panned Honda Civic. The Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Impala rounded out the Top 5, though I’d bet my life on the vast majority of Impala sales being fleet-based (Cain claims that it’s impossible to get the data, but GM mysteriously stopped publishing it some time ago, once reports on the fleet/retail breakdowns were being published by analysts such as himself). Just missing the cut is the Chevrolet Cruze.

On the truck side (or shall we say, truck/utility) the F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Honda CR-V are atop the podium, followed by the Dodge Ram and the Ford Escape. The re-designed CR-V is evidently off to a strong start, and it will be interesting to see how buyers take to the 2013 Escape when it launches later this year.

Check out the full breakdown here

 

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64 Comments on “A Snapshot Of January Sales: Honda Civic Is America’s Third Best-Selling Car...”


  • avatar
    geeber

    It will be interesting to see how the new Escape performs on the market when it debuts. We will probably buy a new vehicle within the next 12-18 months, and a small CUV is at the top of our list. We currently have a 2003 Accord and a 2005 Focus, and both have been great.

    The new Escape was on display at the Harrisburg Auto Show last week, and I could tell that my wife was underwhelmed. I really liked it. Meanwhile, she really liked the new CR-V, and also liked the old Escape. I have to wonder if the new Escape is just too much of a radical change for its target audience.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      In my area you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a current model Escape.

      Canadians love the value and “utilitarian appeal” of it. If people wanted “style” they could get the Edge.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I’m not sure who wants the Edge, Ford has sold half a million of them by now but you sure wouldn’t know it on the east coast.

        Escapes aren’t quite as thick as Ravs and CRVs but they aren’t any kind of scarce.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Every car forum I have visited in the past months has been very negative on the new Civic. Yet it sells like hotcakes.

    The Camry always sells well even though every car review gives it a “meh” at best.

    Word of mouth from the average owner of any Civic or Camry is very positive though. Obviously this is what sells cars, not the word of mouth of the few car enthusiast car buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      ….despite the efforts of the auto companies to court the opinion of a few so-called “influencers”….

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      It doesn`t do any harm that Toyota is offering 0% for 48 months on the new 2012 Camry (ad on this site). I was surprised to see this as long term zero % finance is usually GM/Chrysler/Ford thing. They are obviously serious about shifting the volume.

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      I have never herd anyone who bought a new Camry or Civic complain that they don’t like it, or that they feel that they somehow got less than what they where expecting. I do hear complaints from some new Accord owners though.

      • 0 avatar
        200k-min

        The Camry is all new so it doesn’t surprise me they are selling fast. What baffles me is the Altima, it’s equally old as the Accord and Fusion yet it’s selling like mad while the Honda & Ford are way down the list. What gives? Is this just Nissan being better at the monthly payment game? Nobody really talks up their Altima but many people I know do their Accords.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        Nissan appears to be pitching the Altima more heavily to fleets. The State of New Mexico recently purchased dozens of 3.5 SV models – Nissan must have a glut of V6 models to dispose of.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Honda is still recovering from the double whammy of the Tohoku disaster followed by the flooding in Thailand.

        Nissan had the luck to escape most of the supply disruptions and the Altima is a fleet and rental favorite on one end and cheapest in class by at least a grand on the retail side.

        Look up what a 2.5S sells for – Corolla money, not Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @Rob, yeah I’ve seen them too. Those guys should no longer be late for anything with that much power under their right foot.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I’ll talk up the Altima…I really like mine a lot. And I would take it over a Civic or an Accord any day…While it slots between them, it is right sized for me and way more engaging to drive than the Honda products…

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        isn’t Nissan’s 3.5 v6 a bit too powerful and fuel hungry to be putting into a compact slash medium sedan?

        i mean it’s great to be roasting front tyres but their 350z 3.5 vs. 2 litre fours???

        really?

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      That tells you how out of touch the typical car reviewer is.
      A typical car reviewer: “the new Civic understeers like a boat anchor at 9/10’s and has about as much rebound damping as a pogo-stick on the fast transitions under braking..”
      A typical Civic buyer: “the trunk opening is big enough for our stroller sideways, and the gas mileage is better than the Corolla or Sentra, and I get a back up camera for free…”

  • avatar
    Spartan

    The Civic is becoming what the Corolla is now and I think that’s what Honda was aiming for in the first place, hence the vanilla styling. The previous gen was quite the looker, especially the Si sedan.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Long live the Impala! Frankly, if I had to replace my 2004 Impala today, I’d buy a new one, hands-down. In Victory Red, please. With tan interior. LT level. I’ll add my own badging, thank you very much.

    Trouble is, at least for the majority of the B&B, “boring” cars sell the best, it appears, even if the Impy is a fleet queen right now.

    I’d probably take a Civic over a Corolla, however, but I still like larger cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I’d take a Civic over a Corolla, too -but that’s not saying much, because there are a LOT of things that I would take over a Civic. Focus, Cruze, Elantra, Impreza, Golf…the list goes on.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        I mention the Civic solely because it looks as if more effort was put into it, but I’m going back to the rental Corolla we had in LA. Pure uncomfortable junk! An Aveo would have been an improvement I’d like to think.

  • avatar
    replica

    I really disliked my past 2007 Civic Si sedan. The steering had the feedback of an Outrun arcade booth, and the interior plastics could be scratched with a sneeze. Hondas will continue to sell strongly to the Honda generation even if they do decline in quality and value. The rest of us pragmatic folks will continue to not have brand loyalty and just buy whatever is amusing.

  • avatar
    supersleuth

    The Elantra and, when updated, Forte may end up being real threats to the Civic- I think they’re nowhere near their sales ceiling. The Cruze and Focus are probably already close to theirs- they are just not going to sell to those of us who need to get 200,000 miles or more out of a car, not when their glitch-prone launches have done nothing to dispel doubts about their long-term reliability. And the problems will create negative word-of-mouth.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      As much as I’ve enjoyed the 2004 SVT Focus and 2002 Focus ZX5 I’ve had, I can’t say they were trouble free. I wouldn’t expect a stress free 100k out of either of them. It’s unfair of me to put those expectations in the current Focus, but, well, I just did.

      • 0 avatar
        dejal1

        replica, why not have expectations?

        Everyone should learn from the past and improve for the future.

        If the last Focus got 15K, 80K or 150K trouble free miles, the new one shouldn’t get less, it should get more trouble free miles. If less, than the vehicle (and the company) failed.

    • 0 avatar
      PennSt8

      Of all the cars mentioned in your post, none of them have been around long enough to determine what long term quality will look like.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I can see two possible explanations for the sale success of the current Civic:

    1) Honda has their finger on the pulse, and really knows how to “build cars for the people who buy them”. The mainstream buyer values different things than the critic or enthusiast, and Honda knows this and isn’t going to waste time producing diesel powered, ostrich trimmed station wagons with manual gearboxes for people who rarely buy new cars.

    2) Honda has a strong reputation based on the general excellence of their products over the past 30 years. Their many satisfied customers continue to buy Hondas in large numbers because of their past experience with the brand, oblivious to the fact that the competitive landscape has changed and there are now other, better, choices.

    If (1) is true, Honda has nothing to fear; (2) worked well for Detroit in the past, until it didn’t…

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I agree, but you have to remember that, if you ask Joe and Jane Civic Buyer about Honda’s reputation for “general excellence,” they are more likely to mention reliablity as opposed to the quick steering or crisp-shifting gearboxes favored by people on this site.

      Having sat in the new Civic, I can say that a real problem is an interior with thinner carpeting and much more hard plastic than the interior of the previous generation. But, given that one of the complaints about that Civic was easily scratched interior panels, perhaps the new ones are more durable. The doors and bumpers of the new model fit better than they did on the old one, too.

      I would also note that this model is based heavily on the old one, so the reliability kinks should be worked out by this point.

      If the reliability is still there, the average Honda buyer isn’t going to ding this Civic as a bad car. The real trouble comes if, say, the Focus and Cruze turn out to be just as reliable, while being more nicely trimmed (and their interiors are nicer than the interior of the Civic). If this happens, Honda can get away with the cost-cutting for this generation, but the next Civic had better be REALLY good.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      I think your point number 2 sums it up. It’s a Honda, it’s still fuel-efficient and reliable. The fact that the interior is noticeably cheaper than last year’s model or it’s still a noisy tinny box is irrelevant to people.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Also goes to show people don’t care what Consumer Reports has to say as even they dumped on the new Civic. The combination of #1 and #2 are hard to beat: most people don’t care (double wishbone? huh?), its a Civic so its all good.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        I think CR really went overboard; they should be embarrassed that they rated the crappy antediluvian Corolla a bunch of points higher than the nothing-special-but-decent Civic. I suspect that whatever tweaks Honda puts into their accelerated mid-model refresh will give them a welcome excuse to walk it back a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      oleladycarnut

      “Their many satisfied customers continue to buy Hondas in large numbers because of their past experience with the brand, oblivious to the fact that the competitive landscape has changed and there are now other, better choices.”

      Wrong, wrong, wrong. What an inane assumption. Past experience with a brand that continues to deliver reliability and value is a damned good reason to continue to buy any automobile.

      I know I am not the only one who checked out the “other, better, choices”, found them sorely lacking and returned to Honda once again.

      The 2012 Civic Coupe is better than ever. I own it, and I have to laugh when I see the Civic is selling as well as ever given the predictions of Honda turning into SAAB because of the 12 Civic model. To assume people who continue to buy Civics don’t know any better is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Not a single vehicle in the top 30 is a small car!! No Fit, no Mazda2, Yaris, Sonic . . .

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      But everyone is being told they need a MASSIVE car to make it day by day. When I bought my Mazda2, the salesman was asking when I’d be trading it in, gesturing to my wife, due to starting a family. Is there any reason someone couldn’t raise a kid while owning a Mazda2 or a Fit? Plenty of people were raised in 80’s Hondas. We all made it out just fine. Have people gotten bigger and I wasn’t aware of it?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Ha ha ha! We raised our family beginning in a Gremlin and moved up to K-Cars!

        We had no trouble at all.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        A fair number of states didn’t have child restraint laws in those days, and the states that did have them tended to be more lax with enforcement.

        Putting two small children in the back seat of very small car is one thing…it gets cramped REALLY fast when you have two car seats back there, instead.

        Our Focus was fine when it was just my wife and I, and was okay when our first daughter was born in 2009. Our second daughter was born in 2011, and now there are two child seats in the back seat. My wife, who before our marriage had run her cars into the ground, and bought new cars only when absolutely necessary, is now telling me that she wants a new car, and it will have to be bigger.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        replica, you may find yourself re-thinking that when you try to get a rear-facing baby seat into the 2 (and still have room for anybody to sit in front of it). I like my Fit a lot, but I’m well past that stage of my life.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        It’s the car seat thing, mostly. The slim Euro seats are $$$$$, and the cheap American ones are large enough to double as shipping crates for bowling balls. Even so, one could fit those seats into a Soul, Cube, or xB instead of the CX7 the Mazda salesgoon had in mind.

        One wonders if there’s a market for a child-seat rack to replace the rear cushions completely?

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I’ve never had to load a child seat in a car. I probably won’t have to given the power of the vasectomy.

        I’m sure it’s not terribly pleasant to stuff two child seats into the back of a small car, but it probably CAN be done if need be. Just saying, the hype that we all need giant cars seems a bit romanticized to me.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        Giant, no. Something with at least the rear-seat room of a Civic, yeah.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I guess I need more perspective and need to wrestle with a child seat to experience the agony firsthand.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        It’s not just wrestling with the seat. The really hard part is getting a toddler in and out of the seat, which is complicated by limited clearance between the car seat and the front seat, and cramped door openings.

        The car seats also take up a fair amount of seat room. In our Focus, with the two car seats installed, there is room for one other person, but he or she had better be short and slim. And that person won’t want to be back there for more than an hour or so.

      • 0 avatar
        crackers

        If you’re going to experiment with car seats, make sure you also add strollers and honking big diaper bags. To get the full effect, make sure you do this in both -10C winter and +35C summer environments. While your at it, try finding a private place in the vehicle to change diapers. I believe that you’ll very quickly wish you had a vehicle like a minivan that could quickly and easily absorb all this and get you on your way in air conditioned comfort.

      • 0 avatar

        Nobody was “told”. They just ride in a small car for a while and figure it all out.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Yup. The biggest problem small cars have is that they are not particularly more fuel efficient than the next size up compacts. For example the Accent is barely 1mpg better than the Elantra in city mileage, and tied in freeway mileage. Wouldn’t you get the larger Elantra now? Same with the Fiesta vs the Focus SFE, the Sonic vs the Cruze Eco, the Mazda 3 vs the Mazda 2 (Skyactiv equipped 3 actually beats the 2 handily)

      • 0 avatar
        Zombo

        Unfortunately no one is getting anywhere near the mpg that Hyundai claims for the Elantra . In fact a consumer watchdog group is lobbying the EPA to retest the Elantra .

        http://www.autoblog.com/2011/12/02/consumer-group-cries-foul-on-hyundais-40-mpg-claim/

  • avatar
    George B

    I amazed at the number of Toyota Corollas sold. Popular with both retail customers and fleets despite many other choices. Rented a Nissan Altima last week and saw many Altimas at Hertz. Also see new retail Altimas with temporary tags. However, I’m just not seeing that many new Civics on the road in the North Dallas suburbs. I would guess that the Cruze outsells the Civic around here.

    • 0 avatar
      Wraith

      Yeah, I was going to ask why the Corolla manages to make the top 10, when there are so many better options currently available in the category. But I guess it’s a combination of fleet sales, price, and most Corolla buyers probably don’t shop around much.

      Getting an auto w/ cruise, no extra options, Corolla’s cheaper than Focus, Civic, and Cruze. Elantra comes out $300 cheaper.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I put this question to the best and brightest – If you were a fleet manager and had to adopt a “standard” company car for your sales reps, what would you pick? Let’s say your reps put 40-50,000 miles/year on the car and need at least 15 cu/ft of trunk space. Oh yes, let’s assume that price is an issue as are other operating expenses and depreciation, and let’s assume that some clients wouldn’t be too keen on a “foreign” car coming to visit.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Impala or Fusion.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      As much as I don’t care to recommend a GM vehicle, the Impala fits the mission you describe perfectly. I’d even go so far to say that lower acquisition and maintenance costs would probably offset the MPG hit versus a four-cylinder Fusion.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “If you were a fleet manager and had to adopt a “standard” company car for your sales reps, what would you pick?”

      That would depend on at least a few things.

      Does the car need to be near-luxury to luxury, or is mainstream sufficient?

      Do the reps need to carry people in the back, or not?

      Are you buying enough quantity to secure a manufacturer fleet deal?

      Without knowing the answers, I’d start with the Fusion. If that isn’t big enough, then Impala or 300. If you need some near-luxury branding, then a Buick Lacrosse.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I’d buy them all Priuses because the gas savings alone at 50,000 miles a year per car would be insane. And screw the clientele who don’t like foreign cars, I wouldn’t cater to the lowest common denominator. If they needed a larger car they’d probably all be Camry or Fusion hybrids assuming the newer Fusion hybrid has decent trunk space.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The Imp is the Panther of 2012 – most sales go to fleet duty for public service, police and taxi duty.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Here in Houston Edges are all over the place. My wife has one…style over substance.

    I’ll miss the old Escape…while an ancient chassis, it drove quite well and was a jack of all trades, certainly at a reasonable price.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Hilarious. Once again, the enthusiast rags and mouth-breathing domestic fanboys are proven wrong. Honda and Toyota get constantly trashed and the Camry and Civic come out on top. All the hype about “class-leading” new Detroit cars, but the fleet queen Impala is their best seller.

    I also enjoy the irony that the same people who knock the Civic for being cheap, outdated and boring defend the even more-outdated Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      I’m pretty disappointed by the current Civic and I’ve probably owned about 8-9 different Hondas. I think that the biggest shock was when older Honda owners even disliked them.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Coming up short of the 2012 competition isn’t the end of the world. Customers aren’t comparing to the 2012 competition, which they largely haven’t driven, they’re comparing it to the old car they’re coming out of.

        Coming up short of the 6 year old car the customer pulled up in makes your customers go check the competition. That’s a disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “Hilarious. Once again, the enthusiast rags and mouth-breathing domestic fanboys are proven wrong. ”

      Why all the vitriol?

      In any case, the “mouth-breathing domestic fanboys” might be on to something, the domestic makers seem to be doing well.

      From the linked article: “14 of the 30 best-selling vehicles in the United States hail from America, whether they’re built here or owned by companies based here or not. Twelve are Japanese…”

      Also from the same site*, I see that Chrysler, Ford, GM, and Hyundai all had higher market share than Toyota and Honda last month. IIRC, this was around the time that Japan Inc was meant to be recovering from the Tsunami, and stealing share back from Detroit and Korea.

      The rise of Korea and Detroit is even more impressive when you consider that not that long ago, all these brands had a well deserved reputation for making rubbish, and two of the three Detroit automakers were bankrupt and written off for dead…
      _________________________________
      *http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2012/02/canada-auto-brand-market-share-january.html

  • avatar
    Joss

    Talking of people & size I’m a moderate 5′ 11″. I couldn’t find enough headroom in the Civic. The rear was impossible with the moonroof. I wonder how many Americans are driving their new Civic with a Spiro Agnew neck crimp?

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    I saw a documentary on the hair band Motley Crue on VH1, they said back in the ’80s they all decided to stop taking showers to see how bad they would have to stink before the groupies would stop wanting them. I think Honda is doing the same thing with their cars.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Honda in general is not doing well, worse in California where GM & Ford passed HMC up.

    http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120130/RETAIL01/120139987/1490

  • avatar
    silverkris

    Confession: My wife traded in her 2000 Civic for a current 2012 model. I’ll admit that the interior materials don’t seem to be as nice as the old car, but it’s offset by some very important features in the new car.

    First, it gets better fuel economy than the old one. The new car has LATCH for child safety seats – yes we have a kidlet, whereas the old one doesn’t. The new car has a more powerful engine, so it has a bit more zip than the old 1.6 car, and it is quieter and smoother.

    Yeah, maybe the aficianados don’t like it, but it works for my spouse.


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