Cain's Segments: Subcompact Cars In September 2014

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
cain s segments subcompact cars in september 2014

In a U.S. auto industry that’s seen total new vehicle sales rise 5.5% over the first nine months of 2014, car sales are up just 1% year-over-year.

Subcompacts are performing slightly better, rising 2.8% through the end of September. During the month of September, specifically, the subcompact category grew 4.9% as overall car sales rose just 2.2%.

Yet the majority of cars in the subcompact segment are selling less often in 2014 than in 2013, not just in September but over the course of 2014’s first three-quarters.

Yaris volume has tumbled 46.3% this year as Toyota approached the launch of a refreshed 2015 model. In the meantime, sales of the Prius C have fallen 4.7%. The Mazda 2’s 40% burst means little given the low-volume nature of the car, but we expect greater things from Mazda when the next 2 arrives.

Despite increases from its Hyundai platform-sharing partner, the Kia Rio is down 11.6% to 29,387. The Rio and Hyundai Accent have combined for market share of 18.5% this year, down from 19.6% at this stage a year ago. (Their September share dropped from 19.0% to 13.9%.)

CarSept. 2014Sept. 2013% Change9 Months 20149 Months 2013% ChangeChevrolet Aveo—

———2-100%Chevrolet Sonic8,328

7,33513.5%77,94769,64911.9%Ford Fiesta4,185

5,043-17.0%52,40357,618-9.1%Honda Fit6,628

3,98166.5%39,61841,021-3.4%Hyundai Accent3,662

4,999-26.7%46,40545,1122.9%Kia Rio2,240

2,695-16.9%29,38733,238-11.6%Mazda 21,585

1,916-17.3%12,6979,06940.0%Nissan Versa12,072

8,77637.6%110,27291,53520.5%Toyota Prius C3,192

3,283-2.8%31,56433,133-4.7%Toyota Yaris598


With their latest efforts, Detroit has their first two credible contenders in the subcompact segment in decades,or perhaps ever. Though it’s the only vehicle in the category with a true performance halo variant, Ford Fiesta sales are down 9% this year. The Fiesta has been on sale in America since June 2010. Over 271,000 have been sold since then, with annual sales peaking at 71,073 in 2013.

The Chevrolet Sonic, on the other hand, is up 12% to 77,947, the segment’s second-best nine-month result. The Sonic is a distant second to the Nissan Versa, of course, but this is nevertheless a welcome result for General Motors. Chevrolet averaged 6771 Sonic sales per month in 2012, 7137/month last year, and 8661/month in 2014.

Nissan’s Versa plays both value and space cards, and it does so to great effect. Over one-quarter of all subcompact sales in America go Nissan’s way. The Versa is also the only car in the class which sells anywhere near as often as its compact sibling. (Examples: the Focus outsells the Fiesta by more than 3-to-1. The Cruze outsells the Sonic by 2.7-to-1. Civic to Fit equals 6.4-to-1. Sentra sales are up 43% to 141,216 this year.)

The Fit is the most interesting nameplate in the subcompact class this year as Honda launched the car in third-gen form in the late summer/early fall. Fit sales jumped by 2647 units in September as the car’s market share in the category grew from 9.8% in September 2013 to 15.6% last month. U.S. Fit volume peaked at 79,794 units in 2008 but Honda has averaged fewer than 57,000 annual Fit sales since then.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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  • Thenerdishere Thenerdishere on Oct 13, 2014

    Look at your photos from the 70's and 80's. It's the blubber. Most Americans can't fit into these subcompacts.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 13, 2014

    Where's all the small Fiat models?

    • See 1 previous
    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Oct 14, 2014

      @Vulpine The Fiat of yore and lore already has the reputation for shoddiness, unreliability and frequent repair. That's going to be hard to overcome. The difference today is that Fiat now has Sergio. Love him or hate him, he's effective, he promotes efficiency and he knows sh!t when he sees it. As long as Fiatsler keeps Sergio running things, they will be OK. I liken modern-day Sergio to the Lee Iaccoca of old. Each intensely focused on making their products a success in the market place. And succeeding at it.

  • Cprescott It is ugly enough. But why? You refuse to build enough of your products for your consumers.
  • Cprescott Only if your income also gives you more votes.
  • MrIcky It's always nice to see a car guy put in charge of cars instead of an accountant. I wish him well and look forward to some entertaining reveals. I think he and Gilles may be the only industry people that I actually enjoy listening to.
  • Master Baiter It doesn't matter whether autonomous vehicles are better or worse drivers than humans. Companies with deep pockets will find themselves sued over incidents like this. Enough lawsuits and the whole business plan collapses. Cheaper to just put a human behind the wheel.
  • MaintenanceCosts How many dogs are wiped out by human drivers annually?Which type of driver wipes out more dogs per mile? Per trip?Without some context there's not much information here.