Cain's Segments: Midsize Sedans

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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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5 of 39 comments
  • Speedygreg7 Speedygreg7 on Mar 12, 2014

    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.

  • VCplayer VCplayer on Mar 12, 2014

    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.

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    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Mar 15, 2014

      @PrincipalDan Use the 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.

  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”
  • Random1 Pretty excited about this update, I didn't see it available in mine this morning, but any day now... I think only Apple maps will be on the center display, and not Waze yet, but I assume that'll come soon enough. As to the unnecessary Tesla comment above : I'll take the build quality, the looks, and generally normal items that all cars should have over the M3 any day of the week.
  • Jonathan H. The ES production is going back to Japan so it's safe to assume its assembly building will be utilized for the new EV. Seems like a good fit for what will probably be fairly low volume compared to the Camry/Rav4 assembly lines.