April 2015: Finally A Strong Month For Subcompact Car Sales In America
In April, for the first time this year, U.S. sales of the core group of nine subcompact cars increased on a year-over-year basis.
After January’s 2% decline, February’s 11% decrease, and March’s 12% drop (and the first-quarter’s 9% decline), April sales of the Nissan Versa-led subcompact group grew 9% compared with April 2014. This brings the year-to-date tally to 163,309 sales, down 4% over the same period last year.
Although it was the first of the year, April’s increase wasn’t exactly a flash in the pan. There’s been a gradual build-up in subcompact sales during the month of April over the last few years. April 2013 sales jumped 6% and April 2014 sales rose 9% before last month’s 4003-unit, 9% increase.
And the segment didn’t rely on the top-selling Versa/Versa Note for its expansion. In fact, Versa sales slid 8% in April 2015. The Toyota Prius C, Kia Rio, and waiting-for-2016 Mazda 2 declined, as well.
But after troublesome months in which GM’s subcompact market tumbled, Chevrolet Sonic sales improved in April.
The Hyundai Accent surged past the 8K mark for just the second time in 37 months.
Ford Fiesta sales improved on a year-over-year basis for the first time since May 2014.
The new Honda Fit recorded its eighth consecutive month in which sales improved, year-over-year.
For the second consecutive month – and just the second time in 19 months – Toyota USA reported more than 2000 Yaris sales.SubcompactApril 2015April 2014% Change4 Months 20154 Months 2014% ChangeChevrolet Sonic8,700
7,65513.7%20,01531,888-37.2%Ford Fiesta5,982 5,8242.7%18,09221,422-15.5%Honda Fit6,529
4,19755.6%24,62314,64168.2%Hyundai Accent8,208 6,41927.9%25,00722,42711.5%Kia Rio2,802
3,214-12.8%8,80012,780-31.1%Mazda 221 752-97.2%2494,560-94.5%Nissan Versa9,646 10,481-8.0%46,64445,0843.5%Toyota Prius C3,523
3,569-1.3%12,40212,4020.0%Toyota Yaris2,153 1,45048.5%7,4775,59433.7%———————Total47,56443,5619.2%163,309170,798-4.4%
Subcompacts remain low-volume players, even in an especially positive month such as April. Even if we were to include the less ordinary small cars and sub-subcompacts (Spark, Mirage, Mini, as examples), this would still be a low-volume sector of the passenger car market. The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, on their own, sold 27% more often than the subcompact category as shown here last month. The top-selling Versa is only America’s 16th-best-selling car this year; the 33rd-best-selling vehicle overall. This group of nine accounts for just 7% of the car market in a good month like April; just 3% of the industry’s April volume.
As a result, there’s room for growth. But true subcompact popularity isn’t about to be found in actual subcompact cars. This growth is, at worst, inconsistent, and at best, modest. (This group of subcompacts was up 4% in calendar year 2014 as a follow-up to 2013’s 4% increase.) No, Americans will instead turn toward subcompacts that are priced more like compacts and entry-level midsize cars, vehicles which don’t shout, “I’m frugal!”, to your co-workers, vehicles which are more upright and more spacious, vehicles which aren’t really subcompact cars at all.
U.S. sales of the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Mini Countryman and Paceman, and Nissan Juke shot up 65% to 17,011 in April 2015. And around the next corner comes the Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, and Honda HR-V.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and Facebook.
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