By on March 12, 2014

TTAC_midsize-car-sales-chart-February-2014

By stealing the Toyota Camry’s best-selling midsize car crown, albeit likely on a temporary basis, the Nissan Altima ended February 2014 as America’s best-selling car overall. The Altima’s lead was also substantial enough last month to make the midsize Nissan America’s leading car year-to-date.

It’s early. But the Altima’s trend is a good one. Year-over-year volume has increased in each of the last four months while rising nine times in the last eleven months. As Versa sales have fallen harshly – it’s still America’s leading subcompact – and the Sentra continues to play in the second tier of popular compacts, the Altima’s responsibility to produce big volume for the Nissan car lineup becomes more essential. Three out of every ten Nissans sold in the United States in February 2014 were Altimas.

By one standard of measurement, this means the Altima was far more important to Nissan than the Camry was to Toyota, where only 21% of the brand’s sales were midsize-car-derived. Camry volume decreased in February, the eighth such decline in the last year. To suggest there was some great gap between the Altima and camry in February would be to ignore the actual numbers. Per selling day, Toyota sold 1208 Camrys; Nissan sold 1285 Altimas.

Moreover, the Camry’s 7.3% drop was par for the midsize course in February. Segment-wide sales slid 6.3% – 6.6% if you discount the more premium-oriented Buick Regal and Volkswagen CC – as the auto industry as a whole levelled off and consumers flocked to entry-level crossovers. From the soon-to-disappear Dodge Avenger and the all-but-disappeared Mitsubishi Galant to high-volume players like the Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima, midsize cars were down.

Volkswagen Passat sales slid 7%. The Subaru Legacy, entering a replacement phase but anything but popular, was down 31%. Help from the Mazda 6 is of little consequence. Mazda’s 46% increase translated into just 1243 extra sales. Mazda sold one 6 for every two Dodge Avengers sold in America last month. Fleet or retail, those figures prove the lauded 6’s rarity.

According to Automotive News, car sales overall were down just under 6% in February. This isn’t a midsize anomaly. But these midsize cars certainly play a large role in the passenger car market, as they were collectively responsible for 32% of the cars sold in the U.S. last month.

At Nissan, even fretting minds must be put at ease by the Altima’s improvement, not just in terms of the nameplate’s U.S. volume but the increased market share. Through the first two months of 2014, Nissan owns 16% of the midsize market as we’ve configured it here, up from 13% during the equivalent period one year ago.

Auto
Feb.
2014
Feb.
2013
%
Change
2 mos.
2014
2 mos.
2013
%
Change
Buick Regal
2200 1474 + 49.3% 3634 2479 + 46.6%
Chevrolet Malibu
17,448 14,817 + 17.8% 29,270 30,640 - 4.5%
Chrysler 200
12,046 11,446 + 5.2% 22,958 20,292 + 13.1%
Dodge Avenger
8189 9980 - 17.9% 12,984 19,608 - 33.8%
Ford Fusion
23,898 27,875 - 14.3% 44,615 50,274 - 11.3%
Honda Accord
24,622 27,999 - 12.1% 45,226 51,923 - 12.9%
Hyundai Sonata
11,190 16,007 - 30.1% 21,005 29,254 - 28.2%
Kia Optima
11,226 13,195 - 14.9% 21,205 24,447 - 13.3%
Mazda 6
3945 2702 + 46.0% 7117 4849 + 46.8%
Mitsubishi Galant
25 209 - 88.0% 42 433 - 90.3%
Nissan Altima
30,849 27,725 + 11.3% 53,364 49,189 + 8.5%
Subaru Legacy
2575 3745 - 31.2% 5310 6929 - 23.4%
Suzuki Kizashi
446 - 100% 732 - 100%
Toyota Camry
28,998 31,270 - 7.3% 52,330 63,167 - 17.2%
Volkswagen Passat
6997 7532 - 7.1% 13,233 16,388 - 19.3%
Volkswagen CC
964 1123 - 14.2% 1845 2315 - 20.3%
Total
185,172
197,545 - 6.3% 334,138 372,919 - 10.4%
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39 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Midsize Sedans...”


  • avatar
    Tosh

    I know somebody who just bought an Altima! Wow!

  • avatar
    sunridge place

    The always bizarre sales cycle of the Nissan Altima. Beware of March (the end of the Japan Inc fiscal year.) I’m sounding like Bertel warning of the Chinese New Year sales variation…I think I need a checkup…although Bertel is right on that topic.

    http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/nissan-altima-sales-figures.html

    How March goes will drive Q1…perhaps they moved some ‘end of year’ stuff up? Who knows?

    Odd that the car industry doesn’t drop off much from March to April but the ole Altima seems to rather dramatically.. every year. Also odd that February outsells December almost every year.

    Love your site Tim and your stuff here….care to take a guess as to why on the Altima?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Most models do sell in a cyclical fashion, and you’re right, the Altima doesn’t seem to always follow the seasonal norms. Which explains the always-used disclaimer at the beginning of the second paragraph: It’s early.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    25 left over Galants sold in Feb? They must be very dusty and dry rotted by now. Almost like the unsold Lambrecht Chevys! [not really]

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I believe that we are seeing the early signs of Peak Midsize Sedan.

    If you do a crossover piece, compare the RAV4 and Highlander to the Camry. This is an increasingly vulnerable segment, and that has broad implications for the American car market.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Agree mostly, but we’re also seeing some signs of year over year comparisons to newer models (a year ago) in some cases and the weather factor.

      End of March will be the true sign. A five weekend month for retail and better weather.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It will take years for this transformation to be complete. This will remain a strong segment for some time. But the trend is starting.

        • 0 avatar
          sunridge place

          I agree for the most part and, as you’ve stated in the past, the fact that mid-size is an odd fit globally will help speed it up. Everyone is planning a next gen…but the one after that? Unless China gets an appetite for them…which is doubtful.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @sunridge place
            I can see small front wheel drive sedans making larger inroads in the US in the not too distant future.

            Here in Australia a few years ago or so you wouldn’t have thought Mazda 3’s would be the biggest selling car.

            With the Mazda 3 plant in Mexico I do think the US will head in our direction.

            The US vehicle market in some instances seems to be 5-10 years behind the Australian market.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Until the next great fuel price scare.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        It’s impossible to predict trends without assuming the conditions of the future. All too often, people assume the future will be like the present. Challenging that assumption makes you look brilliant when you’re right and a complete fool when you’re wrong.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    CUVs are absolutely devouring midsize (and large) passenger sedan sales.

    The CUV segment, love it, hate it, or indifferent to it, is now the fastest growing vehicle segment, cannibalizing other vehicle segmentS, at a faster pace, than any automotive segment has been or done in a long, long time.

    I hate them, for the most part, but am in the clear minority regarding modern vehicle preference.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I gotta say I love them, and the fact that the CX-5, RAV4, CRV, Forrester, et al can comfortably fit a family of four and their stuff and still get 25+ mpg without the bulk of an SUV or minivan…I don’t see a down side.

      As a tall person, they’re much more comfortable to drive as well….with better sight lines than a sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        I’m with you on the CUV’s, Dave M._ And so are three of my four children, though, we all like something different.

        I really like the CX-5 and Nissan Cube, my youngest daughter fancies the Soul, but drives an Outback, and my youngest son likes either the CX-5 or the Scion ‘XB’, but rides a fixe bike. My oldest daughter drives a Kia Sportage.

        My oldest son drives a CTS-V wagon. I figure he must own some oil wells he hasn’t told dad about. If he would share the oil wealth, I would buy an FX45/FX50, though an EX37 is closer to the CUV segment and would suit me just fine. I am currently getting by with a Magnum ‘RT’, and in nice weather my ‘M’ powered 5-series wagon.

        This noise about Americans not liking wagons, is just that, SUV’s, CUV’s, Mini-vans, etc. are just another form of wagon/utility vehicle. They are everywhere. Then we have an abundance of Subaru and VW/Audi wagons, with some Merc’ and BMW’s thrown in the mix.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Agreed, I despise them as well and fear the day that CUVs are the only vehicle type left for purchase. CUVs have already chewed up and spit out the SUV and compact pickup segments and now have sedans squarely in their sights. The only upside I see is that mid-size sedan prices seem to be comparatively competitive at the moment.

      • 0 avatar
        jettaGL

        I loathe the CUV’s rapid ascent, My greatest concern is that there will be options available for sedans, but the sedans will be adapted CUV platforms instead of CUVs being adapted sedan platforms.

  • avatar
    catachanninja

    I’m just gonna take all the credit here and point out how this takes place a mere six months after I purchased my ’10 altima SR sedan with a 3.5. Really enjoy the car on my highway heavy commute

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Having rented a 2013, it is truly a good highway car. The interior is several steps closer to premium than the Camry, and that may be the selling point that matters most. I wasn’t impressed with the CVT I was stuck with, but I assume you have the 6-speed manual. The difference between the 4 cylinder Camry and four in the Altima is in the auto transmission, CVT vs 6-speed auto, and that might not be good for the Altima’s future even if the CVT proves durable. I think Camry needs a major interior redesign, though.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    Sure be nice to see regional sales numbers.

    The new Mazda’6′ and Legacy sell quite well in my area, SW Oregon. Don’t see nearly as many Malibu’s, Camry’s, Accords, Altima’s or Buicks. Fusions and Sonatas, do quite well, the Optima and ‘6’ seem to be a big favorites here, as far as mid-sized sedans. The big sellers are the CUV’S, SUV’s, and diesel pick-ups.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “I believe that we are seeing the early signs of Peak Midsize Sedan.”

    Buh-bye squashed little crampy cars. Buh-bye.

    You’re worthless for families, large pets, yard-sales and Home Depot. And the arthritic army hates you.

    Not your fault, but you’ve become The Suck.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Eh, a 1995 Accord was a squashed crampy car. Today’s corn-fed midsizers are a hefty, hefty breed with plenty of room for all and taller hip points than before. Rejoice!

      Oddly, we found that compact CUVs like the RAV4 were too narrow to hold our double stroller flat on the floor, so it had to go diagonal on its side and take up most of the cargo space. It lays flat in the trunk of a midsize sedan. So for us anyway, a CUV wouldn’t make our daily life any easier but it would use more fuel and cost more on the monthly note.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Say it ain’t so. Hopefully the Gen Y long tail can start wagging the baby boomer dog and rid us of these damn CUVs for good!

  • avatar
    mike978

    I was amazed to see the Malibu outselling the Sonata, after all the critical reviews of the Malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      While I think the new new Malibu is a big improvement over the old new Malibu and the old Malibu, my highly unscientific study has shown the ratio of UPC fleet v non-UPC about 5:1. But even with high fleet sales, the new GM can make a profit on them whereas the old GM probably didn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        If you combine Sonata and Optima sales — and they really are the same car — Malibu is getting spanked and they’re close to the Fusion, another good car with subpar reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Sonatas is a dead man walking. Quality stinks and the market knows it too. Also, Chevy has how many times as many dealers?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Hyundai & Kia have worse quality than most other brands, and this is very tragic since they essentially closed a huge gap from the true bottom of the barrel back in the 90s to near the best of the mediocre in the mid-2000s, and then stagnated, never truly fielding competitive suspensions.

        Back in the mid-2000s to even 2009ish, a logical case could be made to purchase a Hyundai product by some, warts notwithstanding, because at least they were getting a fairly reliable vehicle for 25% less than the actual transaction price of the nearest & higher quality Japanese competitor.

        Now that consumptive gap has closed, given the inferiority of Hyundai/Kia, along with their dramatically worse resale value, it’s a miracle that they’re still selling as many vehicles as they are.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @DeadWeight
          Worse is a very strong and subjective word. You seem a little bit against the Koreans.

          Slightly poorer against Japanese would have been a more realistic and truthful comment.

          It’s quality is superior to Big Three manufactured vehicles.

  • avatar
    Ion

    So we’re just going to gloss over that the Altman sells heavily to fleets. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in my opinion. As I’ve said before if you’re not selling to companies someone else will. Just don’t go heavy on the incentives or sell to yourself.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I think it’s kind of scary that Chrysler sells more midsize cars (200 and Avenger) than GM does (Malibu and Regal).

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Chevy/Buick mid-sizers are squeezed a lot more by their compact buddies (Cruze/Verano) beneath them and the full size buddies(Impala/Lacrosse) above them than FCA.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    what’s up w the formerly unloved regal? are they giving them away now? a quick check shows $3,100 off on a fully loaded gs awd so maybe. but why the movement when the rest of the segment is sooooo slow.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    not long ago a 2006 galant showed up on craigslist with a busted timing belt, and paint that looked 30 years old. not only was the clearcoat completely non existent, but the paint itself looked terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      There’s still a new galant at our local dealer. The interior is unbelievably straight out of 2000. Plastics and switchgear cheap.

      Sadly the new Outlander suffers from this as well. I feel sorry for Mitsubishi salespeople. They’ve got nothing to sell except to tier 3 buyers. Luckily our local dealers are tied to Hyundai and subaru.

  • avatar
    Speedygreg7

    I believe in addition to the aggressive pricing Nissan offers on the Altima, the CVT is a selling point to much of the general public. Customers may not understand or care, but they know it is smooth and smooth is perceived as good. In real world, day-to-day use, the CVT is fantastic and may be better than the multi-speed transmissions I have driven that are so eager to get to overdrive.

  • avatar
    VCplayer

    The pricing being so aggressive on these, I wonder how much profit Nissan is really pulling down. I wonder if they’re valuing marketshare in the segment at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’ve started the “research” phase of shopping for my next car. I’ve finally decided to treat myself and buy new. What I really want is a manual transmission family sedan (put my enthusiast money where my enthusiast mouth is). Now of course there is no manual in the Altima anymore but for research sake I did some online shopping with Cars.com/Autotrader.com/TrueCar.

      Holy overproduction, Batman! Almost 900 Altima’s within 300 miles of me and some of them selling for $18,000 which is a huge discount over the mid $20K MSRP. I’ll also give Nissan kudos for actually putting tan interiors in cars with dark paint.

      Fusion seems to have the highest “asking price” (even for an SE model with stick), don’t know how much room for negotiation there is in that.

      Of course I’ll have to drive them all before making a decision.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Regal GS!

      • 0 avatar

        Use the TrueCar.com. As I mentioned earlier I bought Fusion Titanium for a very good price from TrueCar. All dealers around 30 miles called me with offers and one of them had a car with exact color and options I wanted and offered the lowest price too. Offer was so shockingly good ($1K lower than best transaction price on TrueCar) so I agreed immediately and picked up the car next morning, no haggling. Take into account that Fusion I bought was difficult to find in Bay Area – most of Fusion sold and owned here are hybrids or plugins (Energy). There was an excellent selection of Hybrids and Energies on websites and almost all of non-hybrid Titaniums were fully optioned with MSRPs around $35-37K, while I was looking for $33K without driver assist and some other options like self parking (seems that those are the most popular in the Googleland). TrueCar was a great help, I will use it again if need a new car. And BTW in beginning of the year dealerships were desperate to sell cars too. Probably January-February are the best months to buy a new car.


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