By on February 10, 2014


The Mitsubishi Mirage’s status as the best-selling Mitsubishi passenger car in America in January 2014 wasn’t enough to help the subcompact segment overcome the declines reported by its leaders last month.

Up from nothing a year ago, Mirage sales totalled 1170 units in January 2014, the nameplate’s second-best month since its return in September. Excluding the Mirage from the equation, subcompact sales slid 9% (rather than 7%) in January, right in line with the overall passenger car market’s decline.

It could be argued that the Mirage is more of a competitor for the Chevrolet Spark than the Chevrolet Sonic, sales of which slid 23% to 1848 units in January. We’ve excluded the Spark, Fiat 500, Hyundai Veloster, Mini Cooper, Scion iQ, Scion xD, Smart Fortwo, and Volkswagen Beetle and from this list in an attempt to showcase the most direct mainstream subcompact rivals. Including those cars, sales of 18 small cars were indeed down 9% in January.

Digression complete, the Nissan Versa was again America’s top-selling subcompact car. Simply put, space wins, and the Versa (and Versa Note) provide space for families in an incredibly affordable package. Complaints regarding its CVT or frumpy sedan styling were set aside by a record 117,352 new Versa owners in 2013. 2014 is off to a slower pace.

The next-best-selling Chevrolet Sonic is joined by the Ford Fiesta in claiming 30% of the subcompact market for Detroit. That the Sonic and Fiesta could do so on the basis of offering the lowest price or the highest incentives would be one thing; but that they compete as two of the most dynamically competent subcompacts is a sign that Detroit automakers have a future in the small car business. Sales of both the Sonic and Fiesta were down in January.

The Honda Fit, another friend of drivers, recorded a narrow 34-unit loss, but we can expect Fit sales to fluctuate as the second-generation car departs this year and the third-gen Fit arrives.

Jointly, sales of the Hyundai Accent/Kia Rio fraternal twin duo rose 24% in January 2014 to 7402 units. The pair generated 101,210 sales in 2013, 20% of the category’s volume.

The bottom four – Mazda 2, Mirage, two Toyotas – attracted just 16% of subcompact buyers in January. The same cars, without the Mirage’s help, owned 19% of the market one year ago.

Year-over-year, Mazda 2 volume has decreased in twelve of the last thirteen months. Toyota’s Yaris volume has decreased in ten of the last thirteen months. Yaris sales fell 79% between 2008 and 2013. The Sonic, Fiesta, Accent, Rio, and Versa, all of which sell more often, are available in hatchback and sedan form, unlike the hatchback-only Yaris, 2, and Prius C.

The Prius C was just one part of a Prius family which fell 23% to 12,205 units in January. The Prius C accounted for 20% of total Prius sales last month, up from 17% in January 2013. Although Prius C volume increased 17% in 2013 (4% in a direct year-over-year ten-month period), the year didn’t end well, and Prius C sales are down 7% over the last five months.
At the best of times, in the best of weather, with the highest or the lowest fuel prices, January is traditionally a slow month for the auto industry in the United States. We won’t, therefore, base theories on the decreasing desirability of subcompacts on January results. But, in the back of our minds, we will remember that this same group of cars was up just 1% in October, level in November, and down 4% in December.

January 2014
January 2013
% Change
Chevrolet Sonic
6587 7177 – 8.2%
Ford Fiesta
4162 4285 – 2.9%
Honda Fit
3122 3156 – 1.1%
Hyundai Accent
4240 3495 + 21.3%
Kia Rio
3162 2470 + 28.0%
Mazda 2
907 1543 – 41.2%
Mitsubishi Mirage
Nissan Versa
8524 10,270 – 17.0%
Toyota Prius C
2467 2691 – 8.3%
Toyota Yaris
1005 2897 – 65.3%
37,984 – 6.9%
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23 Comments on “Cain’s Segments, January 2014: Subcompacts...”

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    That’s very un-toyota-like to allow such a drastic drop in sales and not really respond with much. To be such an also-ran in the segment is surprising.

    Or, I suppose they figure “whatever, we’re happy to sell you something else with more profit margin” :)

    What do you guys think it would take to “fix” the Yaris? Or is it fully gone at this point to US buyers? Maybe they should resurrect the Tercel name? :)

    • 0 avatar

      Yaris is Japan built and isn’t that much cheaper than a comparably equipped Corolla. The Corolla, with the CVT, will get similar or better mileage, too. If you finance the whole thing, and $3k is the difference in price, you are looking at $50/mo difference. I imagine dealers have more wiggle room on the Corolla, too. edit: just built the two vehicles on truedelta with basics like power windows, cruise control, etc. The Yaris SE is only $1k cheaper than a Corolla LE or Corolla S. Yup, that explains the dreary Yaris sales.

      Nissan has a different dynamic. They price the Versa very, very competitively. Their next step up, the Sentra, just isn’t a popular vehicle for whatever reason.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, the Yaris does have to compete with the Corolla on dealer lots.

      • 0 avatar

        “Yaris is Japan built …” Or, more likely France built.

        You may have missed this announcement:

        It was in TTAC as well.

        • 0 avatar

          The 5 at my local dealer all have VINs beginning with J which indicates Japan built. I imagine that the Yaris is built in both France and Japan. The US supplied Yarii appear to come from Japan. I imagine the Yarii with diesel engines built for the Euro market come from the France plant.

    • 0 avatar

      The “new” Yaris (MY 2013) was drastically improved. They even gave up and relocated the instrument cluster to a conventional position. It beats the “old” Versa easily in every regard except outright volume and goes on equal footing with Accent and Fiesta. I was quite tempted (Fit eventually won my dollars — despite being built in Japan proper). However, the new Versa Note promises be better yet, so Toyota is going to continue to suffer. I don’t see what they can do to turn this around easily.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda will design and build (in Mexico) a subcompact for Toyota that will share the next Mazda2’s platform. I don’t know if it’s been confirmed that it will be a Yaris.

  • avatar

    “Mirage’s status as the best-selling Mitsubishi passenger car in America”

    I was a bit alarmed by this statement, until I realized the word “Mitsubishi” is as invisible as its cars.

  • avatar

    “That the Sonic and Fiesta could do so on the basis of offering the lowest price or the highest incentives would be one thing; but that they compete as two of the most dynamically competent subcompacts is a sign that Detroit automakers have a future in the small car business.”

    I agree with this statement completely. I drove most of these sub-compacts a year ago, and I bought a Sonic. It really does make it’s competitors look like penalty boxes. The Versa, I’m convinced, is sold strictly on price.

  • avatar

    Hey, why did the Mazda 2 become automotive plague? Is that what happens when your platform mate Fiesta updates its look and you don’t?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Most shoppers in this segment are looking for fuel economy and interior space, both of which aren’t found in the 2. It does have good handling, but so does the Fiesta.

      The Yaris is squeezed out by the Corolla and the Prius C. Should be interesting to see what happens when the next-gen Mexican-built Yaris and Mazda2 show up.

      • 0 avatar

        Except it was the first car with a SkyActiv engine … in Japan. That car/engine combo supposedly gets Prius-like efficiency, but it isn’t available here.

        I don’t know why, but the 2 has been sorely neglected in the US market. Maybe it’s because no matter what they do, they won’t sell many, or they can’t make enough profit on them, or they just don’t have the resources to throw at it.

        • 0 avatar

          The Mazda2 got the 1.3L SkyActiv engine though, which only puts out ~85hp. Not considered to be suitable for North America. They recently came out with a 1.5L version that they’re using in the international version of the new Mazda3. The new Mazda2 will have that engine. It makes 115hp. I would have liked to see a little more power, but I suppose 115 is acceptable.

    • 0 avatar

      The main problem with the Mazda2 is the drivetrain; it was outdated even when the car was new, and the car is in its 7th model year (North America didn’t get it until MY2011). The interior isn’t very nice either. That said, I still think it’s by far the best looking car in the segment, and they sell for well below MSRP. You could get one for about 12 grand at the end of last year. There will be a new Mazda2/Demio within a year or so.

  • avatar

    The Sonic is a decent little drive and it’s the only car in the segment built right here in the good ole USA. Get’s my vote.

  • avatar

    When Mitsubishi (Mirage) outsells a Toyota (Yaris), there is something strange afoot in the world.

    • 0 avatar

      Not really, Toyota buyers have the credit to pick up a much better Corolla. Mitsubishi buyers can’t afford the Lancer, not that anyone would want to buy one of those.

  • avatar

    The Versa sedan has to be the homeliest car on the market, and decently equipped, it’s more like $16,000, not $11,900. Much better choices at that “real” price point. The old Versa was better looking, if dated, and had a much nicer interior than the newest one.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I remember that in 1998, Toyota did not have a subcompact in the US market, the Tercel had ended its run in ’97 and the Echo was not introduced until late ’99 and the company thrived non-the-less with its Corolla and Camry marching on. Today it makes no sense to get a Yaris when for a few more $$, you can get a basic Corolla, which is a lot more car for the money, even in the used market, it makes no sense to pick a Yaris either, less supply and you can get a better deal on a Corolla

  • avatar

    What gets me is that Fiat-Chrysler still has nothing in this segment. Wasn’t it the idea to use Fiat’s small car expertise to fill the gap left when the Neon’s run was ended?

    Sergio has provided the 500 and a clubman clone, is planning to revive Alfa after starving it of models, and did starve Lancia to only one Italy-only model, and looks like he’s on his way to starving Chrysler and Dodge of models too.

    I get the impression Mr. Marchionne belongs in a CFO/Vice Chairman position, with a car guy taking over as CEO.

    • 0 avatar

      I think with the downturn in Europe, Mr. Marchionne has only so many eggs to put in so many baskets. The Lancia and Dodge baskets are going to have very few, if any, eggs in them unfortunately.

  • avatar

    Can not see what people see in the Versa. I guess it is a cheap price. I just got back from vacation and we rented a base versa with manual transmission. Nice ride but very wide turning circle. The steering is very poor no feed back at all. Cheap plastic & tin can doors, truck lid & hood. Very good on gas and a lot of room but to drive that car on a daily basis i would go crazy. But have to remember cheap price!

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