“When you get into next year and you look at 2018, I believe with these three products
and the excitement they bring back to that segment, I don’t see it falling anymore.”
– Jack Hollis, Toyota Motor Sales USA’s VP of marketing
U.S. sales of midsize cars tumbled by more than 250,000 units in 2016 even as new vehicle volume rose to record highs. The rate of decline was sharper than the decline experienced by the car sector at large. Only Chevrolet, with the all-new Malibu, and Subaru, with the relatively low-volume Legacy, sold more midsize cars in 2016 than in 2015.
Fleet sales excluded, retail data manifests a worsening of results as the year wore on. According to J.D. Power’s PIN December Industry Health Report, midsize car market share fell below 10 percent for the first time ever.
But Toyota USA’s marketing chief, Jack Hollis, believes 2017 could mark the end of the midsize decline, and 2018 sales of midsize cars could even begin to increase.
Hollis credits, in advance, the arrival of the new Toyota Camry, which debuted earlier this week at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, in addition to new iterations of top rivals.
A new version of the Honda Accord, America’s second-best-selling car, is due this year, with a new Nissan Altima following shortly thereafter, according to Automotive News.
“I believe with these three products and the excitement they bring back to that segment, I don’t see it falling anymore,” Hollis said in Detroit. Hollis predicts flat sales in 2017 and a slight improvement in 2018.
Sound crazy? As auto sales climbed to record levels in 2015, midsize cars slid 2 percent. As overall auto sales broke 2015’s record in 2016, midsize car volume plunged 11 percent.
Yet if any automaker has a grasp on the American midsize market, surely it would be Toyota, which, along with Honda, has dominated the segment for nearly two decades.
With a remarkable 60 percent of Camry buyers historically returning for another Camry, Toyota’s Hollis believes plenty of buyers will come back to the Camry; they won’t all be steered aside to crossover alternatives.
The Toyota brass, however, may not be in full agreement. One year ago, Toyota’s North American CEO, Jim Lentz, questioned how long the Camry would continue to be the brand’s best-selling product. The RAV4 then outsold the Camry in two of 2016’s final five months.
Now, Automotive News reports, Lentz believes the new products will only spur enough demand to stall the speed at which the midsize segment is sliding.