Cain's Segments: Midsize Sedans
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.AutoFeb.2014Feb.2013%Change2 mos.20142 mos.2013%ChangeBuick Regal22001474+ 49.3%36342479+ 46.6%Chevrolet Malibu17,44814,817+ 17.8%29,27030,640– 4.5%Chrysler 20012,04611,446+ 5.2%22,95820,292+ 13.1%Dodge Avenger81899980– 17.9%12,98419,608– 33.8%Ford Fusion23,89827,875– 14.3%44,61550,274– 11.3%Honda Accord24,62227,999– 12.1%45,22651,923– 12.9%Hyundai Sonata11,19016,007– 30.1%21,00529,254– 28.2%Kia Optima11,22613,195– 14.9%21,20524,447– 13.3%Mazda 639452702+ 46.0%71174849+ 46.8%Mitsubishi Galant25209– 88.0%42433– 90.3%Nissan Altima30,84927,725+ 11.3%53,36449,189+ 8.5%Subaru Legacy25753745– 31.2%53106929– 23.4%Suzuki Kizashi—446– 100%—732– 100%Toyota Camry28,99831,270– 7.3%52,33063,167– 17.2%Volkswagen Passat69977532– 7.1%13,23316,388– 19.3%Volkswagen CC9641123– 14.2%18452315– 20.3%—— —————Total 185,172197,545 – 6.3% 334,138 372,919 – 10.4%
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