By on February 20, 2015

U.S. midsize car sales chart January 2015America’s five top-selling midsize cars have held an iron-fisted grip on their category for years, making it very difficult for interlopers to succeed in any meaningful way.


• Sonata & Malibu knocked out of January’s top five

• Midsize cars up 5.5% in January

• Top five own 69% of midsize market


Yet after earning more than seven out of every ten midsize sales in 2009 and 2010 – when the top five included the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, and Malibu – the top five’s market share slid to 67% in 2011 and 64% in 2012. In 2011, the Hyundai Sonata supplanted the Chevrolet Malibu in the top five and didn’t let go in 2012, 2013, or 2014.

But then a return to the norm began, as the top quintuplet’s share grew to 66% in 2013 and 69% in 2014.

2015 started off similarly.

With the Toyota Camry-led midsize segment thoroughly controlled by a few nameplates, the core midsize car category’s volume grew 5.5%. That’s not terribly far off the pace of the overall car market, which jumped nearly 8%, but well below the 19% growth rate of SUVs and crossovers. 69% of the midsize category in January was owned by the Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and the fifth-ranked car.

That car was not the Hyundai Sonata, nor was it the Chevrolet Malibu, the last two cars to join the CamAcoTimUsion in the top five on an annual basis.

2015 Toyota Camry XLEInstead, the Chrysler 200, up 30% to 14,157 units in January, was America’s fifth-ranked midsize car, 1794 units ahead of the Hyundai Sonata (up 26% to 12,363), 2279 ahead of the Chevrolet Malibu (up 0.5% to 11,878), 4763 ahead of the Kia Optima (down 6% to 9394), and 7852 sales ahead of the Volkswagen Passat (up 1% to 6305).

And while total FCA/Chrysler Group midsize car volume slid 8% to 14,399 in January (as the 200 was not able to completely counteract the disappearance of 95% of the defunct Dodge Avenger’s January sales) and as Fusion volume slid 5%, the real story is the increased clout of the top five finishers. Their market share grew three percentage points from 66% in January 2013 and January 2014 and 67% in December 2014 to 69% in January 2015.

There are only a handful of sales leftover for many intermediate sedans which are marketed with mainstream pricing but sell in the kinds of numbers put up by premium cars. The Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat combined for slightly less than 9% of the midsize car market in America last month. The aging Kia Optima, which slid 6% in a category which grew 5.5%, posted four consecutive years of improvement leading up to 2015. But the Optima earned only 6.5% of the market in its best year, a year in which GM’s declining Chevrolet Malibu claimed 7.8% of the midsize category.

Does that mean all hope is lost for the Optima, Passat, Legacy, 6, or any potential Mitsubishi sedan? Of course not all hope. But a number of factors – e.g. production capacity, reputation, loyalty, incentives – contribute to an even more precise alignment of stars that favours the major players maintaining their standing.

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

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38 Comments on “America’s Top 5 Midsize Cars Earn 7 Out Of Every 10 Midsize Car Sales...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    We don’t want to combine the Sonata and Optima sales to make it #3 like we do for the Silverado/Sierra trucks?

    Also, these numbers are always skewed by fleet sales. Can we get what percentage of these sales were fleet?

    • 0 avatar
      Thatkat09

      Because regardless of how much of a stake Hyundai has in Kia, Kia is not under Hyundai’s corporate umbrella and is still an independent company. GMC and Chevy are subsidiaries of GM and are in no way independent hence why the sales are combined. Also, the Sonata and Optima are related but are not complete rebadges very much unlike the GM twins..

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Sometimes the GMC and Chevy are combined, sometimes they aren’t. When talking nameplates, they are. Just like the Avenger and old 200 were never combined on these lists. When the two cars are nothing more than a badge job from 2 brands under the same company, it’s just semantics anyway. Hyundai/KIA are a little different.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Most sales data I see separate the Silverado/Sierra.

    • 0 avatar

      I too would be interested in what component of these numbers is to fleet. I’d think that would be the perfect thing to TTAC to bring into the light of the day too, since fleet sales are a whole bunch of problematic and can produce some really misleading figures. I think a not insignificant portion of the Camry, Altima, 200, and Sonata would be fleet sales. Very few Accords, Legacys, and 6s.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Isn’t the current Optima based on the last-gen Sonata? The Sonata is new for 2015.

    • 0 avatar
      baconpope

      99.44%

      You cannot trust the manufacturers to report accurate numbers, but rental car companies alone lease or purchase about 1/3 of all midsize cars.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    In my neck of the woods I see precious few Altimas.

    And I’ve had a couple of these as rentals and would not put this car in the same league as many of its Asian or American competitors (yes, that includes the Malibu).

    Whence these strong sales figures?

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Nissan has a very strong leasing program – they lease to almost anyone and do a good job with lease renewals.

    • 0 avatar
      caljn

      I dunno…the V6 Altima is a pretty good drive. Fast, quiet and comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I believe that the reason the Nissan Altima rivals the Camry in sales is because Nissan is practically giving away Altimas. In my area for ~$18K, full pop, plus tt&l.

        But if I were in the market for a general purpose midsize sedan, my #1 choice would be Camry because I am queasy about the CVT in the Accord and the Altima.

        Hyundai/Kia dealerships are few and far between as are Subaru. Tough, in case the buyer should need warranty repair.

        Fusion, Chrysler 200, Malibu and Passat are also-rans. Outliers driven by dedicated fans and fodder for car-rental companies and fleets.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Good news for the Chrysler 200. Nice to see it doing well.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Curious to see what they do with the next Optima. Hyundai really bungled the Sonata. Interior looks like something from Dodge. Exterior is way more boring. 2.0T has been neutered. Optima is currently a better buy IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Optima is still a sharp looking car, it will be hard to follow up on that one. Reviews of the non-2.0T Sonatas are quite positive, including the 1980’s style trapezoidal dashboard, but it certainly doesn’t stand out on the road anymore. The Eco looks to be the most interesting of the lineup.

      The 2.0T is a real oddball. Three separate publications have clocked it at 8 seconds to 60. Something is very wrong there but I haven’t seen any follow-up.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. I’ve sat in the new Sonata twice now, and it just didn’t seem right.

      Our 13 Optima Hybrid is a really nice car, and I hope they don’t mess up the next gen design.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It is funny how Subaru tried to get sporty with the new legacy and Hyundai went conservative with the new Sonata, and they came up with nearly the same design. For some reason I have a very hard time telling them apart on the street.

  • avatar
    olivehead

    I’d say 7 or 8 out of every 10 Chrysler 200s I see are rentals or otherwise commercial plates. It’s gotten to where I keep an eye out for them just to see if I can find one with private plates.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Then look in more places other than the airport rental car drop off lane. Less than 20% of the new model are fleet.

      • 0 avatar
        olivehead

        I can’t argue with your stat. But I’m talking about just driving around, nowhere near the airport. Most have commercial plates. Just my personal experience.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I suspect it depends on where you live. On the coasts – yup, mostly rentals. In the Midwest – mostly not.

          I still say this ain’t the 90’s, fleet sales are not the bad juju they once were when the Detroit 3 owned the Rental 3. Now it is more a sale is a sale.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Are there 2 200’s I just got out of a 200 rental, old body style POS, with less than 4,000 miles on it that the rental desk said is the fleet model and not the “new 200” you can buy at a FCA dealer

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well obviously these sales figures are the result of the Camry and the Altima actually being race cars. The commercials told me so.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    I wonder what percentage of Accord sales volume is attributable to the couple.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Fleet sales should not count here, after all, this is to see which mid size is the most and least popular among car buyers.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    No, but most readers would want to know it, fleet sales are not a good indicator.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Fleet sales data is delayed, and it isn’t free.

      Deliveries data (what is included here) is available for free, and is released almost immediately after the end of the month.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    I tried to look into the 200 on TrueDelta and oddly the car doesn’t exist there, which is rather strange for a top 5 vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      There must be a demographics twist there, like TrueDelta members/contributors don’t buy 200’s or vice-versa. Or 200 owners are still haggling with dealers over adjustments/warranty coverage and are holding off for resolution before reporting to TrueDelta.


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