By on May 28, 2015

2015 Toyota Camry XSE red

U.S. sales of midsize cars tumbled 7% during the month of April and are down 4% through the first four months of 2015.

On the whole, America’s appetite for passenger cars is in decline. Overall demand for cars is slightly south of flat in the early part of this year even as the auto industry posted 5% year-over-year expansion between January and April.

As more American car buyers become buyers of small and midsize utility vehicles, the vehicle groups most obviously paying the price are family sedans. The Toyota Corolla-led compact car category, for instance, is up 7% this year. But Chevrolet Impala-class cars have fallen 13% and the segment up for discussion has lost nearly 30,000 sales in the first third of the year.

Exceptions aren’t uncommon. In some cases, the exceptions are noteworthy. Sales of the best-selling car in America, Toyota’s Camry, fell 10% in April but are up 2% so far this year. As a result, the Camry’s share of the midsize category grew a full percentage point to 18%, year-over-year, through the January-April period.

The Chrysler 200’s 96% year-over-year improvement is somewhat less impressive when the Dodge Avenger’s demise is taken into account. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles went from selling two midsize nameplates to one. Jointly, their sales are up 8%. In terms of year-to-date volume, the 200 ranks fifth in the category, ahead of the Hyundai Sonata and Chevrolet Malibu, and three spots up from its position at this time a year ago.

USA best-selling midsize car sales chart

The Subaru Legacy’s 68% year-over-year improvement translates to an extra 7,977 sales for Subaru, but the Legacy is still a niche player in the U.S. market. Over the last four months, Subaru sold 2.4 Outbacks per Legacy.

The Mazda6’s recent improvements were covered in detail one month ago. 6 sales have now increased in twelve of the last thirteen months.

Hyundai’s Sonata posted a 3% uptick over the first four months of 2015. Like the Camry, that growth period was brought to a sharp halt in April, as Sonata sales fell by 2,581 units, a 13% loss, compared with April 2014.

Meanwhile, the remaining rivals posted declines ranging from the Kia Optima’s 4% drop to the Volkswagen Passat’s 20% slide. Upmarket segment outliers, the Buick Regal and Volkswagen CC, declined 26% and 50%, respectively.

The Optima, Altima, Fusion, Malibu, Accord, and Passat combined for a loss of 47,000 sales between January and April, a 10% decrease.

On the other hand, a class of smaller SUVs and crossovers led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 posted 12% gains in the same period and roundly outsold the midsize car category.

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 on Facebook.

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34 Comments on “U.S. Midsize Car Volume Is Down 4% In 2015 – Camry Growing Its Lead...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    The Accord is commonly held to be one of the two best cars in the segment. So why the large drop? It is not that old.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Although I am not a Honda guy you are right. I can only narrow it down to the other choices in the segment have gotten better overall. Even if they arent as good as the Accord for some they are “close enough” that they choose something else. Or I could be totally wrong and folks just are in a lull right now about it.

      • 0 avatar
        NN

        I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of people who walk in to look at an Accord and walk out with a CR-V when they realize they have more useable interior space

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I agree, the precipitous drop by the Accord has to be the biggest surprise in the segment. It’s still a relatively new car, so to me that doesn’t explain it, and the value for money from an MSRP standpoint is there.

      I’m guessing this is essentially a decision by Honda to put their limited money into developing other models (new Pilot, e.g.) and put the Accord on autopilot, getting lower volume but a higher transaction price for each sale while nearly all their rivals are buying market share with fleet sales, cash on the hood and subsidized leases.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I don`t agree with your second paragraph – the Accord has sizable discounts. When I went midsize sedan shopping last year $4000 off the Sport was easily achievable with 0.9% APR. So Honda is incentivizing – much more than Mazda could afford to for example.

        Others have said about the CRV, and it is increasing its sales. Probably at the expense of the Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      Gregg

      It’s dumpy looking, compared to most of the other mid-sizers?

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    If Mazda could ever get to the point where they could sell 140k 6’s per year it would bolster them rather well. This current car is one of the best in the segment but they need another large leap in order to grab some more attention and sales. I know that stats dont support it but if they could just get their diesels right and go back to offering a six (new one) this would allow for more recognition on their parts. Why dont they just buy the six from Toyota or Honda or even BMW and add a new 9 or ten speed tranny to it.All three of those are relatively frugal sixes and they could tailor the tranny and engine to give them their own persona.Just dont use Fords, GMs or Chryslers as they tend to be more thirsty.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Good point. Toyota and Mazda have signed agreements to collaborate further following on from the Yaris/2 joint venture. Getting a higher powered engine would be a good move, although it seems Mazda will be using one of their own for the upcoming CX9 (which will also power Mazdaspeed 3 and potentially 6).

      With regards sales there seem to be three tiers – 90K plus, 70K to 90K and then those on 20-30K. It is not inconceivable that the 6 could overtake the Passat (both by increasing sales and the Passat declining). The 6 is one of the few to actually increase sales in a car market down by 5%. The recent upgrades should help further.

  • avatar
    th009

    There are more Camrys than ever in the rental car fleets, at least at Hertz and National/Enterprise. I have been really surprised how many: at National, the Camry inventory is on par with the Chrysler 200 …

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Also taxis are standardizing on Camrys. Never seen an Accord taxi.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Wouldn’t this have to do with the reliability of the Camry Hybrid? Ford and Toyota hybrids seem to be popular with taxi companies.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          In Chicago, hybrids are virtually a requirement. And you’re right, Toyotas are the runaway top choice. You see Priuses (Prii?), Prius wagons and Camry sedans. I think Toyota’s general reputation and the hybrid credibility they’ve gained with the Prius have put them in a commanding position in this segment.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Ford had a lot of Escape Hybrids as taxi cabs, but I’ve only seen one C-Max cab. They’ve seemed to have just let Toyota have that market.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ tonycd – The one exception seems to be the Scion xB, which offers a compelling blend of low MSRP, interior space, and (presumably) reliability. Also relatively common: Fusion Hybrids, C-Maxes, and Altima Hybrids. The Altima is interesting because, per Wikipedia, it uses licensed Toyota hybrid technology. Perhaps because of that, it only was produced from ’07-’11 and is gradually disappearing from the Chicago taxi fleet. (Were they regular I4 Altimas, it would be a great testing program for CVTs.)

            The post-Crown Vic world is interesting because there’s not yet a true standard vehicle. I’m almost certain the Camry Hybrid makes up a plurality and not a majority.

            I have seen one Accord cab, which caused me to do a triple-take.

          • 0 avatar
            DrGastro997

            Agree 100%. The Chicago taxi scene has drastically changed from Crown Vics to Toyota hybrids. Whether it’s a Prius or Camry or Scion Xb, they’re everywhere in Chicago.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The compact class hits the sweet spot. Subcompacts are not much cheaper or more fuel efficient than compacts. And midsizers are just too big… the added cost and size is of no benefit to the kinds of people I know who drive Corollas (single women and dudes who commute).

    Plus always keep in mind, cars like the Civic n Corolla are pretty much the size of Camrys and Accords from 15-20 years ago, at least inside. More space is OK but not really a huge selling point anymore if it doesn’t come with added practicality. Actually, people are willing to trade space for practicality.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I both agree and disagree. I agree in that the current compacts have the interior room of atleast mid-90s midsizers, if not more. My 2012 Civic feels awfully close to a early-mid 90s Accord in more ways than one. However I’d say that the real sweet spot are the current midsizers, which offer better NVH control, a better highway ride (not to say the compacts are bad), awfully similar fuel economy, and more power for just a few thousand dollars more. I look around wistfully at Accord Sports and Camries when I’m in my Civic. When I was car shopping in 2012 I had a tight budget cap of $15k. 2 years on, my position has changed substantially and if I was shopping now then I’d totally pony up that $18k for a fire-sale Camry LE or Accord LX. Although I must say, I’ve grown rather fond of the Civic. A trip to ATL and back last weekend netted a hand calculated average of 40 mpg across 4 tanks (one was 39.5 and another was 41.5).

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I had 3 92-93 Accords before my current 09 Civic, and I must say they are near exact matches in interior size and NVH. I suppose if you want a more luxurious ride the Accord is great, but I love how light and playful the Civic is. Again it feels just like my old Accords, but 200lbs lighter. I’m used to driving noisy POSs so the Civic is OK with me :)

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    The mid-size sedan market in North America is seemingly for buyers who want flavorless transportation (with the possible exception of the Mazda6). As evidence: no OEM produces a mid-size four-door sedan for enthusiasts (sportier trim, manual transmission, etc.). Rear spoilers, black wheels, and CVTs don’t cut it. Or am I missing something?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Yea, I think you are missing something. Honda literally makes the Accord Sport, lol. Hyundai makes the Sonata Sport and Mazda’s 6 is essentially a sport trim across the board, with an available manual transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        To be fair to Higheriq the Accord Sport fits his description that just having sport wheels, fog lights and a rear spoiler doesn`t make a car sporty.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          How about a 6MT, more horsepower than the base car and a more aggressive suspension tune?

          Accord Sport is exactly the car he claims he was looking for.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            He said also ” Rear spoilers, black wheels, and CVTs don’t cut it” and the Accord Sport has all of those too.

            The 3 extra hp really doesn`t make any difference and is due to the twin exhaust. The Accord Sport is a good car, but it is merely an appearance package on the base LX – no suspension or steering changes.

            It is commendable that Honda is one of the few to offer manual transmissions.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I do appreciate that some manufacturers are making “warm” versions of mainstream sedans. E.g., Camry SEs and XSEs do get different shocks and springs as well as extra bracing. Those trim levels are not just appearance packages.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Well, the Accord Sport still exists, and the Mazda 6 w/MT ain’t bad from all reports.

    • 0 avatar
      Whatnext

      No more so than the buyers of “utility vehicles” of either the sport (sic) or crossover type. The very name utility vehicle indicates the absolute lack of aspiration to any excitement.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Look at the picture. That’s the sporty Camry. It does look pretty good in person and has nice sport seats as well with a suede like finish. I went to four Toyota dealers looking for 4Runners and every single one had a red Camry XSE like the one in the picture in their showroom.

      I don’t know how the suspension is sorted (improved some), but V6 Camrys are fast enough anyway and it looks pretty good with those wheels and a unique front fascia.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    None of the losers have been refreshed lately, but I think most or all of the winners have been.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I guess this just proves that my tastes (and probably most of the B&B here) are just not mainstream. What does Toyota know that we don’t that made them style the 2015 Camry the way they did (hideous) and is drawing customers to it? I just don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I hate the DLO fail on the C-pillar. It does kind of pain me to see it rewarded. Beyond that I can’t really fault the Camry recipe: roomy, reliable, affordable, three good drive train choices, and (as noted above) sporty trim levels that actually do entail suspension changes.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      I think the people who buy Toyotas just don’t care what they look like. They want a reliable, relatively cheap, roomy appliance for transportation. Toyota can do whatever they want with the styling and I don’t see it alienating many of these customers.

      Toyota’s problem is that this is an aging customer base. I assume that the bolder visual style on the newer Toyota and Lexus models is an attempt to attract younger customers. Personally I think they are unbelievably hideous, but I don’t know if the strategy overall is working or not.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I think you’re right and would add that within today’s (and especially tomorrow’s) CAFE strictures the stylistic damage is mostly limited to the front clip, all else being stuffed into the mandated wedgy-blob mold.

        That’s pretty easy to ignore if a brand new Toyota is attached to it.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    The fact that five Altimas are sold for every Mazda6 is why we can’t have nice things.


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