By on September 15, 2015

2015 Dodge Charger V6

Only weeks after TTAC’s managing editor publicly declared his yearning for a V8-powered Dodge Charger, I was driving the same V6-powered Charger that got Mr. Stevenson’s motor running.

His response, the response of a young man whose lifestyle necessitates no firm requirements from his transportation device: I want this car.

My response, the response of a slightly more aged man whose lifestyle necessitates the frequent carriage of strollers, the frequent installation of a Diono Radian RXT, and the frequent responsibility of ferrying lanky individuals in the rear seat: Big family cars ain’t what they used to be.

Or, in comparison with their ancestors, are these full-size sedans infinitely better, let down only by modern LATCH requirements and comparisons with modern vehicles that make family friendliness their core mission?

Besides a rear seat which offers far less legroom than the Charger’s exterior dimensions suggest, a number of little things conspire to make the car less appetizing for those of us who’ve publicly manifested our fertility. The lower anchors are tucked away, as if to say, “Please don’t find us – we hope never to be touched by human hands.” The top tether anchor is so inordinately bulky that detaching the tether, sorely hindered as you’ll be by the headrest and rear window, is not a task for the uninitiated.

And yet, the experience of driving the Charger completely rearranged my viewpoint. Imperturbable ride quality, surprisingly quick steering, plenty of power even from this base V6 (though it does have 300 horsepower due to a boost from the Rallye package), and an overall sense of solidity and strength produce memories of Detroit’s successful big car era. Sure, there are a handful of chintzy bits – the wiper/signal stalk doesn’t belong in a $40K+ car; the shifter squeaks and squawks — but the Charger does not by any means feel cheap or unfinished.

Nevertheless, even aided by Hellcat hype, Charger sales are flat, year-over-year, and August volume plunged 18 percent. This isn’t out of the ordinary for a volume brand large car in 2015. Through the first eight months of 2015, the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon are all selling less often than they were during the same period one year ago.

Child seat installation is far from the only reason large car buyers are turning away, if it’s even a reason for anybody but the Cains. But with midsize cars offering similar space for less money, entry-level premium cars providing more cachet, crossovers appealing to an ever broader cross-section of the market, and even crew cab pickup trucks attracting a large number of family car purchases, traditional large cars are bound to struggle.

TTAC USA large car sales chart

U.S. sales of this nine-car group plunged by 63,182 units over the last eight months, a 17-percent decline that’s far worse than the overall passenger car sector’s 3-percent year-to-date drop. With only 305,942 sales between the LaCrosse, Impala, 300, Charger, Taurus, Azera, Cadenza, Maxima and Avalon so far this year, segment-wide sales are down 23 percent compared with the first eight months of 2013. Their share of the U.S. car market is down to just 5.8 percent, barely better than the Toyota Camry, which produces 5.5 percent of all U.S. car sales on its own.

Automakers read the tea leaves. The latest Ford Taurus was revealed in Shanghai for Chinese, not American, buyers. In Canada, Hyundai doesn’t even bother to offer the Azera, recognizing there’s no demand for the car. Mazda and Mitsubishi, which once positioned sedans above their midsize nameplates, have long since given up on the segment.

As for the Charger, I’m duty bound to acknowledge that I want one, particularly in Hellcat form or as a Chrysler 300. I’m just surprised that I don’t feel that a car of this size works for me at this stage of my life. Then again, my demands for family friendliness are substantial.

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

105 Comments on “TTAC Wants, America Doesn’t: U.S. Full Size Car Sales Are Plunging...”


  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Part of the problem might be the quality of the mid-size alternatives. My Sonata is ginormous, bordering on cavernous, and with the extraordinary interior quality for a car coming in around 20k it would have been really difficult to justify dropping another 12 or 13 grand for a less-optioned Azera / Taurus / whatever.

    Anything smaller, from the perspective of a parent with two kids (one of whom is brand-new and thus rear-facing) would have been a non-starter. But if this is mid-size, who needs full size?

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      My experience with my wife’s 2015 Fusion is similar. We do not want for interior space and the interior was such a step up from her 2005 Accord (and should have been given the decade that separates them). The Ford dealer didn’t even have a Taurus on the lot to look at had she considered it anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        We also moved from an Accord to a Fusion. We are finding ourselves with rear seat passengers much more frequently–i’m almost 6’2″ and i can sit comfortably upright in the back. that never happened in any Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’d have to agree. Midsizers have essentially grown to become full size cars. Sit in an Accord and ask yourself what benefit an even larger cabin really will be to a mainstream sedan buyer.

      Full size sedans have had to distinguish themselves through higher feature content or additional performance, which comes at a cost that most buyers would apparently rather put into a CUV or full size pickup. I’d personally rather have the Charger, 300 or Avalon.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Well the last generation Accord was a full size by the EPA classification system. The Maxima still is. The Accord started out as a compact but the Maxima had traditionally been in the midsize class.

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez_Returns

        Exactly this. When recently replacing my 1996 Avalon I considered a 2005+ Avalon replacement, but was put off my the additional 7 inches in length. The 1996 was already plenty big. Went with a 2005 ES330, which already was an inch longer.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        Pretty much this. Besides CUVs wiping the floor with other segments, there has been little to differentiate full size vs. an ever growing mid size other than (potential) performance. And how many non-premium performance sedans even exist in the USA right now? Among the full size it is only the Charger/300 (5.7/6.4/6.2) or the hideous Taurus SHO. The ADM laden SS is barely worth mentioning. The WRX is a compact. Umm…is that it?

        I don’t necessarily need something Charger Scatt Pack sized, but I want something fast. A Fusion RS would be fine. At least it looks like the Fusion ST will happen…

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        How did this happen? I sit and look at my neighbor’s FiveHundred and it is the same platform…but seemingly a whole lot smaller car than the later Taurus.
        Seems they did something to mess around with the body vs interior volume. Big huge hips and belt line but it doesn’t seem to give as advertised.
        Not sure right now, but perhaps they added trunk volume or something.

        If they left the Fivehundred, or even designed the Taurus to size, it would be a fine car.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      PeriSoft,

      I feel as if you’re comparing your purchase price of a mid-sized to the list price of a full size.

      My 2013 Taurus cost me slightly LESS than a similarly equipped 2013 Fusion. I drove both and it was an easy choice.

      I also looked at SUVs, but that’s where you spend and extra $12K for about the same vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “I feel as if you’re comparing your purchase price of a mid-sized to the list price of a full size.”

        Well, maybe to an extent. But this is just where the Sonata’s ludicrous price advantage over its *direct* competition also put the nail in the coffin of any potential big-car usurpers: To get the same content level in a Fusion / Camry / Accord would (the Optima excelled in content but I just didn’t feel like the car was quite *there* enough), due to the vagaries of packages and option levels actually provided by dealers, resulted in my having to pay at least five grand more out the door. And even then the Fusrycords lacked some nifty stuff (cell-network remote start, magic trunk lids, etc). The Sonata just happened to be optioned *perfectly*; it had everything I really wanted without being saddled with expensive stuff that wasn’t on my must-have list.

        So, the Sonata did have an advantage there already.

        If we assume that the Sonata wasn’t there, that would have left me looking at a $30k Fusion to get the stuff I really wanted, and maybe at that price I could have been knocking on the door of transaction prices for 300s or Tauruses. Hyundai’s fortuitous optioning and well-considered feature decisions meant that never got on my radar.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The new big car is the CUV. End of story. It’s not like midsize sedans, which also are suffering falling volumes despite tooth-and-nail competition, are the culprits here.

    The CUV is taking over very quickly as the default American family vehicle. Remaining sedans are going in a sportier, sleeker direction; they are now for singles, or as the second/commute car for families. Large sedans aren’t really the best candidates for this mission.

    Every trend in the market right now has to be seen through the lens of the shift to CUVs as the default. In my experience, most women under 40 (both single and family) simply have no interest in any other type of vehicle, and the number of men buying them is increasing as well.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      This. No mystery that turning sedans into sideways limbo contests causes average people to shy away.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      You also typically can’t get AWD in large sedans. If you can, it has a huge tunnel running through the leg room in the middle seat in the rear or worse a transfer case impeding legroom in the driver or passenger footwell. Midsize CUVs are killing the large sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Around here, CUVs and vans are Mom cars and sedans are Dad cars. Singles and empty nesters go both ways.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The multi-car families around us all have one CUV/SUV/minivan, but vary on the second car. I’d say in most cases it’s another CUV or SUV, but there are also a lot of sedans. Very few pickups (there’s no room to park them around here) or sports cars.

        The single-car families (we are close to an urban center and reasonable transit) ALL have a CUV.

        Sports cars and sedans as only vehicles are the realm of singles.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Disagree. CUVs aren’t three abreast either.

      The big car is the half-ton truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        The only CUVs/SUVs that can seat three abreast comfortably are full-sizers, and only in the front two rows. Ironically, because of their entry price, they’ve pretty much all turned into premium family haulers, which means leather (or at least cloth) bucket seats for everyone. I mean, who’s buying a Tahoe/Suburban with the front bench?

        • 0 avatar
          Carilloskis

          My parents bought 9passenger suburbans, had too having 6 kids. But GM decided to chase the premium buyer and not the people who actually needed a 9 passenger truck. After 2000 the suburban began its change from a useful vehicle for large families to something lazy trophy wife’s who didn’t want to teach their kids to get along drive. The suburban know has less grind clearance than a crv. The layout of the dash for the 2007-current models makes the front center seat useless for anyone with legs. They could have used the same dash as the silvarado but decided the impala was a better fit.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Think this may be an urban/rural divide. Very few drive trucks here in the city (except those who use them for work) because they’re just too much of a hassle to park. Where there’s less parallel parking, bigger garages, and bigger parking spots, I also see more trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Pickups are everywhere in rural North America, but they are all over the suburbs as well. Too many pickups are sold for it to be a strictly rural vehicle. Urban/metro areas are the exception, rather than the norm.

  • avatar
    Crazyman

    I just don’t get how these aren’t selling, they cost very little more to lease compared to mid-sized sedans. An Azera is $40 a month more on a lease than a sonata, and it’s got to be one of the best looking fwd sedans on the market, particularly from the rear.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      This is what we were facing when I bought our 2015 Avalon. We were trading in our Altima (which we grew to hate for various reasons) and were initially looking at a RAV4. It was ok, but my wife wanted to look at the Camry. I wanted the V6, because it has a proven track record and plenty of power. When comparing a Camry V6 XLE and the Avalon XLE, the price was minimal. The difference in sitting in the cars and the way they were put together added up to a significant difference. Throw in an extra $500 off plus 0% financing and the deal was done.

      I love the car and it was the best deal for us. But the gap between the mid size and full size car is really close from a room perspective. Given the low volume of sales, I would think a good deal is to be had in getting a full size car. I would certainly reccomend comparing a mid size to it’s full size counterpart if one is available.

      I also agree with other posters; CUV and full size trucks have put the whammy on full size cars. Most likely having an impact on mid size as well.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “CUV and full size trucks have put the whammy on full size cars.”

        Seating position is better in a CUV and SUV. You sit up higher and get to see more, all around.

        I notice this after I scoot around in my 1989 Camry V6 and then switch to the Tundra or the Sequoia, Highlander or Grand Cherokee.

        Whoa Nellie! There’s a whole other world out there I didn’t get to see from the Camry!

        • 0 avatar
          smartascii

          While this is absolutely true, when everyone else starts driving a taller vehicle, then the people who want to see over the traffic will have to get a taller vehicle still, and I can’t help but wonder where this arms race will end…

          • 0 avatar
            Drew8MR

            Right? By this logic everyone should be on motorcycles. Taller, mass market (I have no experience in Cayennes and their ilk) vehicles have (IMO) terrible driving dynamics. My current SO has an 05 CRV and I loathe it. The cargo area is worthless if you need to haul anything even remotely long, the seating position is abhorrent, road noise is considerable and those are just some of my gripes. A Civic sedan of the same year would be 1000x superior in every way.

          • 0 avatar
            Les

            Today’s CUVs/SUVs have ride-heights and seating positions equal to sedans from 50 years ago.

            People aren’t moving into vehicles that are taller, they’re moving Away from vehicles that are getting shorter.

            Also, the aerodynamic demands of CAFE and the tastes of contemporary car designers (and/or the ones holding their leashes) are making sedan trunks smaller and with smaller and more awkward openings. In 1960 a full-size sedan’s trunk was like a truck-bed with a more secure tonneau-cover, now the hatchback is the go-to for convenience and cargo space.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Those Impala figures probably include W-Impala and are thus skewed. Charger is the clear winner followed probably by Epi-Impala and Avalon. I’m very surprised that many Maximas were sold (unless that’s mostly the old model)

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Maximas, like the older Impala, are rental fodder. As for the new Impala, it is just weird that GM refuses to disclose actual sales, the inference being that they aren’t what they expected or at least enough to happily do so.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    Popularity contests aside…most of today’s full sized sedans have what smaller-scale sedans generally lack: great proportions combined with visual presence. Bragging-rights for space-efficiency and utility be damned, sometimes a striking appearance and a nice exhaust note triggers an emotional response. There will come a time when these sedans are even rarer than they are today, and some of us will look back with an aching nostalgia. I have a new Impala LTZ, which (dynamically) splits the difference between the soft Cadenza and the athlete Charger. Of all the cars my household has owned (including GTI, WRX, an STi, TL, ATS) none other has started so many conversations and produced smiles, enthusiasm, thumbs up.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Happy you’re happy and not to diminish your ride but to me the 2016 Malibu is the looker in the Chevy stable.

      • 0 avatar
        JLGOLDEN

        Agreed that the ’16 Malibu looks good in pics. I need to do an in-person walk around for a true reading on its lines, angles, and proportions. Currently, driving a throaty and peppy V6, I am not interested in the various resonances and exhaust notes which accompany most 4-cylinder engines. A lot of people just accept the buzzes, hums, and rasp as normal. I’m not there yet!

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          I’m not sold yet on the new 2016 Malibu yet either. The tiny 1.5 T engine with only 160 Hp sound under powered to me and the sound they make always say economy car not flagship.

  • avatar
    ajla

    One thing about the LX cars is that they aren’t nearly as large on the outside as people think. The long wheelbase and beefy sheet metal create an optical illusion.

    Other than height my Charger has basically the same dimensions as a ’92 Lesabre. So it is large but hardly GIGANTIC. It is a good two feet shorter than a ’96 Fleetwood Brougham (14 inches shorter than a Caprice Classic or MGM) and about 3 inches narrower.

    Add in the RWD layout and the 105 cu ft of interior volume on my Charger really isn’t bad engineering, and I do find it more comfortable to drive than the midsize offerings out there. Plus, without the performance suspension I think they ride better than anything under $35k.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      I remember reading an article that stated the 300 is about the size of the later Valiant/Dart twins.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        The Dart and post-74 Valiant were the largest of all the ’70s “compacts” with a 111″ WB. If you consider the Aspen/Volare a compact (I don’t), that was the largest “compact” ever made, IIRC. The GM A/G-bodies (which were perfectly mid-sized at 108″, IMO) were smaller than the Aspen.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The one huge Achilles heal to the Charger/300 is the trunk. It’s smaller than many mid size offerings and noticeably smaller than my 2013 W-body Impala.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Could the RWD architecture be in any way to blame?

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        The Charger/300’s trunk and my Challenger’s trunk is big enough for about anything I can conceive of carrying. I put a pretty big flat screen TV in my ’08 Charger’s trunk, and another smaller one in the back seat with the front passenger’s seat reclined to clear a corner of the box.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    This is because 1500 series crew cab pickups are the ‘full size cars’ of our current world…and as most of the B & B noted above, midsize cars are HUGE inside now…climb in the back seat of a Sonata or Passat and you’ll know what I mean…Even the trunks of these cars can carry 5-6 dead bodies…

    Interestly, if you look at the dimensions of cars like the Ford Taurus of the mid 1980s, they we’re just barely bigger than the current small cars/compacts…The midsizer of today is full size of yester year…and since everyone is buying small to midsized CUVs, does it even matter?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The four-door pickup truck was the answer to a multitude of questions, wants, needs, desires and lusts.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “The four-door pickup truck was the answer to a multitude of questions, wants, needs, desires and lusts.”

        As is the four door Wrangler.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “As is the four door Wrangler.”

          Amen!

          That said, it is an embarrassment to see a young Air Force Captain commute to work in a Wrangler.

          So, my oldest son and I decided that when my son’s daughter, my 25-yo grand daughter, got married to that guy this past June, we would give her TWO 2012 Grand Cherokees as a wedding present: my wife’s 2012 Overland Summit, and my sons 2012 SRT8.

          That young Captain now commutes to the base in an all-black SRT8, much more befitting an Instructor Pilot.

          • 0 avatar
            Roberto Esponja

            Damn! Will you please adopt me? :-P

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            ” we would give her TWO 2012 Grand Cherokees as a wedding present: my wife’s 2012 Overland Summit, and my sons 2012 SRT8.”

            That’s one hell of a wedding present!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Roberto

            I got first dibs

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Guys, guys, guys! These were four-year old cars with lots of miles on them.

            The object was to provide the newly-weds with reasonable transportation so they would not have to stick themselves into debt for cars right away.

            BTW, my 18-yo grand daughter is now the registered owner of our 2008 Highlander Limited.

            Again, no big deal. She had it through two years of High School and now attends UT El Paso. (She and my daughter, her mom, live right down Mesa Ave from UTEP, so she did not need a brand new car for commuting to college like the other grand daughter did)

            I’m into cars. I have bought a lot of them during my lifetime. Many of those cars I passed down to my kids AND grand kids. It was what my dad did. It was what my wife’s dad did. No big deal.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ll take four year old cars with lots of miles on them, please. Newest thing I own is eight.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The problems with a full size 4 door pickup is it’s massive price tag, it’s much lower mileage and it’s overall greater cost of ownership. These rigs are very expensive to buy insure, fuel and keep up.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny_5.0

          Is “massive price tag” even accurate? Nowhere are sticker and out-the-door prices more divorced than full size trucks. Real world pricing seems very much inline with any feature rich full size sedan. I just looked at the closest Ford dealer to my house. $14,500 off a new XLT Supercrew with the 2.7EB ($31K out the door). And that’s with chrome packages and tow packages and junk most people don’t need. The same family owns a Dodge dealership. The cheapest Charger RT advertised is $31K with $5K in discounts. Full size truck pricing seems quite reasonable compared to general new car pricing to me.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          True when gas was 4 bucks, if you put a lot of miles on at least, but not really accurate now.

          Cost to buy, $35K will get you a decent crew cab. That’s not Camcord money, but any CUV you can name will have a lot of them on the lot for more than that.

          Insurance is very much a YMMV but in my experience the difference has been in the order of 200 bucks a year. Even that is skewed since I’m comparing $30K trucks to $20K cars.

          Maintenance, if you DIY is basically noise against the cost of a new car and if you pay someone else to do it it’s 90% labor and 10% parts which hides bigger pads or 3 more quarts of oil pretty well.

          Strong resale makes up all of those truck costs and then some.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          And the fact that if you live anywhere near a city there will be places, possibly including your own house, where you can’t park it.

    • 0 avatar
      phreshone

      Don’t forget that pickups and large SUV’s can qualify for sect 179 tax deduction (the “hummer tax loophole”) if someone has business income outside of normal employment. a $25k deduction makes it so any small business owner, 1099 worker or somebody with a side business has far superior economics purchases a F150 or Explorer than a Taurus or any large sedan.

  • avatar
    JCK

    Agreed. We received a Sonata rental this past weekend. And, while I can pan the car for a terrible suspension, road noise, and being bland as can be, the trunk and back seat are absolutely enormous. If you want a sedan for hauling four people, I can’t see why you’d need to move up a size in class. And if you need to haul more than four on a regular basis, you’re buying something with three rows, I’d guess.

    My memory may be failing here, but it seems like the Sonata had more rear legroom than my parents’ 1980 Olds Delta 88 or their 1985 Buick Electra Wagon. Those cars were a lot bigger…

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Funny you should mention it. This past weekend we had a 2015 Ford Explorer Limited as a rental.

      It had all the bells and whistles like a power hatch, power seats in rows 2 and 3, NAV with backup cam, etc etc etc etc.

      I thought it was cramped (compared to the 2012 Grand Cherokee we used to own) but it did have excellent seating position for everyone, and more than adequate room inside. Hence,

      “Those cars were a lot bigger…” would indicate to me they were bigger on the OUTSIDE only.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        How would an Explorer feel cramped next to a Grand Cherokee? Numbers aside (they favor the Ford heavily) I always thought the crossover-ized Explorer had oodles of empty space in strange places, which although useless for storing cargo or people, created the sensation of roominess. Grand Cherokee is known to be packaged a bit tight.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “How would an Explorer feel cramped next to a Grand Cherokee?”

          The front seats and the way the huge dashboard is draped over the legroom, the sheer width of the center console, the sheer size of the NAV-system display. Tons of lights, buttons. knobs. Looks busy like an airplane cockpit console.

          Also, the front seats do not go back as far because the second and third row seats take up all of that space. The GC has only two rows of seats, more second row legroom, and less-obtrusive seats.

          The shaping of the side-glass and roof liner also contributed to the “snugliness” of the cabin.

          Our rental Explorer had 20″ wheels with Hankook tires and those tires rode better than the OEM Goodyears we had on our JGC, and almost as smooth as the Michelins I replaced them with.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “Our rental Explorer had 20″ wheels with Hankook tires and those tires rode better than the OEM Goodyears we had on our JGC, and almost as smooth as the Michelins I replaced them with.”

            I likewise have had a few Limiteds with the 20 inch rims on low profile tires as rental vehicles, and was amazed at how smooth the ride was over torn up I-65 north of Indianapolis.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Possibly slightly more total rear legroom but every other dimension including width is greater on the old school full sizers as they could easily seat 6 people where as today’s narrower full sizers are a bit tight with 5 on board.

      • 0 avatar
        JCK

        Agreed that those older cars are much wider. And yes you could fit 6 into the car. Still, three in the back seat (or front) wasn’t exactly great in those cars. Even as a small child I remember it being pretty tight.

        I think even in the late 1980s, once you hit that third kid, you were destined for at least minivan. One family with four kids had the full size custom van. (B&W TV in back!)

        In any case, I think for most use cases, a Hyundai Sonata is a much more useful car. And gets about 2x the gas mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      “My memory may be failing here, but it seems like the Sonata had more rear legroom than my parents’ 1980 Olds Delta 88 or their 1985 Buick Electra Wagon. Those cars were a lot bigger…”

      This is completely untrue; your memory is definitely biased in the same way as remembering the house you grew up in as larger than it actually is. Someone down the street had a late 80s Delta 88 when I was growing up, and the back seat was absolutely tiny compared to my mother’s 91 DeVille. The Olds had a large rear deck, which made for a big trunk opening, but compared to the Caddy the trunk was extremely shallow and didn’t swallow much stuff at all.

      “Agreed that those older cars are much wider. And yes you could fit 6 into the car. Still, three in the back seat (or front) wasn’t exactly great in those cars. Even as a small child I remember it being pretty tight.”

      It isn’t that the cars were wider so much as the doors and pillars were much thinner, so you got more interior width out of a similar exterior width.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    Lets talk about how damning an indictment it is of all the other competitors in this space that the Taurus is still middle of the pack volume wise. The Avalon and Maxima need to take a good long look in the mirror. (The 300 and LaCrosse theoretically compete in a different space, but the Buick has some ‘splainin too)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yep. I sat in a new Maxima recently. The interior feels a good deal less roomy than that in the old Maxima even though the dimensions are more or less the same. The culprits are an enormous console and thick door panels.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        I haven’t sat in the new one yet, but on paper it still has _less_ rear legroom than the cheaper Altima. Which has basically the same powertrain. I think the Maxima is better looking, but I still don’t understand why they keep both of them around. Just give the Altima the Maxima’s clothes and kill the latter. Nissan saying the Maxima has nameplate cachet hasn’t been true for years.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      If the new Maxima took a long look in a mirror it would run away screaming. That thing is hideous…

  • avatar

    BOTTOM LINE: Crossovers are killing 4-door sedans.

    On a related issue: AWD is available in more crossovers than 4-door sedans.

    The North East, Canada…they’ve made their choice.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      But the same pattern applies across the south of the country, where no one cares about AWD, and applies even to the sedans (like the charger) with AWD. It’s the ride height and the shape, not the AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        It’s both. Ford added AWD to the Fusion SE for a reason, in the north they couldn’t sell anything but Titaniums.

        But as the new owner of a CUV, coming from a BMW 3 series, the seating position is just better. More chair like. It is easier to get into of course and holds more stuff, but I think people like the seat farther off the floor than modern sedans allow. Sports cars, where people sit even lower, have been a sales dead end even longer.

        Large sedans offer almost nothing anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      BOTTOM LINE: Crossovers AND PICK-UPS are killing 4-door sedans.

      Just a little help.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Ah yes, parked between a warehouse dumpster and an abandoned lot. You’ve found the natural habitat of the Charger!

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      LOL. Unfortunate truth. If you drive around the less affluent parts of town here, the Charger and 300 are the ghetto fabulous cars of choice. Large, cheap, and they can fit ridiculous 22-24 inch wheels. They are usually (used) stripper V6 models. The stigma of the ghetto can be hard to get over. It doesn’t help that with the refresh I even find the RT derpy looking. Only the visual bits on the Scat Pack and above make them look appropriately mean for my tastes.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You know, same thing happened to Intrepids and 300M’s which weren’t blessed with the 2.7 for a few years after they were around as well. The Charger is just the replacement for those (and the later Magnum Wagon and Pacifica).

        Dodge/Chrysler can’t seem to escape the ghetto stigma as you mention.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        I have seen a few Crown Victorias and Grand Marquis with 22-24 inch wheels, the kind that spin. Looks ridiculous especially on a Crown Victoria in black and white or taxi cab yellow. The owners have more invested in the wheels and the stereo than the cars are worth. Maybe Murilee will find one of these and do a junk yard article.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    As the market has shrunk, automakers have slowed investment in large cars. The Avalon and Azera are just midsizers with a 3 inch stretch. Nissan didn’t even bother stretching the Altima to make the Maxima, they just restyled and added luxury features.

    The only vehicles I’d consider in this category would be a 2010/2011 Taurus SHO (targeting $18K for one with 50K miles) or a 2013 300C Luxury with the 8 speed tranny ($25K). Nothing new sold today appears to be an improvement on these.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Diono RXT? Cannot describe how much i loathe that seat, what a nightmare it is. Our Britax is a million times easier to install.

    I am staggered how hard a regular car like ride height is to work with once you’re dealing with kids seats. Our x1 is way, way easier to work with than our 9-3 and it is only raised 4 inches.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      We took the pricey plunge on a Peg Perego Primo Viaggio and love it. So easy, both to install and to actually insert/remove the kid. Far easier to deal with than our Britax infant seat. It also isn’t comically deep — it can fit behind me in the Forester with plenty of room for everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        “Peg Perego Primo Viaggio”

        Is that some sort of Italian sandwich?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Mmm. Italian sandwich… wait… it’s an hour until lunch (sob).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The only thing I miss about my last job is the Italian bakery/deli that was basically next door. The good news is that I have lost 10 pounds since leaving that job without any other lifestyle change.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @bball40dtw It’s amazing how much a good nearby lunch spot can add to a workday experience.

            I once did some R&D work for a large telecom carrier in downtown Silver Spring MD, a place that fits the joke “What is the difference between Silver Spring and yogurt?”

            Answer “Yogurt has an active culture.”

            But there was a small Italian deli/sub shop that got fresh Italian bread every day, made its own fresh mozzarella every day, and had prosciutto imported directly from the owner’s brother’s deli in Roma. I ate one of those sandwiches just about every other day for about a year.

            Another time, I was doing a contract in Tyson’s corner, and had three mainland Chinese H1-B’s assigned to me as coding support. During a winter so bad I often stayed at a motel next door to avoid driving even in an AWD Jeep XJ, they turned me on to a Chinese regional eel dish that wasn’t even on the menu, at the Chinese place a short walk from the office. Perfect winter food, and a one-off opportunity. I have never found another Chinese restaurant, even in NYC and Philly Chinatowns, that makes that dish. But it was great while it lasted.

            And the best Orange Beef I have ever had was from a small Chinese takeout place on Rt 7 in Tysons Corner.

            I even got snowed in in Boston a lot, doing a year end rush project back in the mid-90’s, the year of the great blizzard. And I ended up staying in a relatively cheap motel (independent consultant, paid my own bills), and even though most motel restaurants are mediocre at best, this one had a great REAL (not Tex-Mex) Mexican restaurant that stayed open at least until ten every night.

            It was things like that that made certain of my consulting contracts better than others, just as much as the content of the projects themselves.

            New Year’s Eve dinner at the original Joyce Chen’s in Cambridge was another work-dinner perk, complete with my lovely wife and our then year and half old son.

            On the other hand, being stuck on a project where you billed hourly and the only decent food was a half hour or more away was a real drag on morale.

            Darn now you have me (almost) wishing I was back on the road again, as a hired gun consultant.

            But I’ll grill some steaks and make a nice salad, for the same two companions, twenty years later, and the feeling will pass.

            But the B&B now have me making a raid on the midnight snacks. Damn, I started out trying to read TTAC, and now I will end up cooking after midnight.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          That’s the new drink at Starbucks. Kinda outta the loop, ain’t ya?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I guess so. I bet that is an expensive Starbucks drink then.

            Barista: That will be $8.79.

            Me: faints like BMW’s CEO

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    This is depressing but it is what it is. I’m an outlier, always the fan of the big sedan, and would love to see a Chevy SS wagon. The VF Commodore Sportwagon is gorgeous.

    But I get it, GM can’t even sell 3,000 SS’s (would help if they oh I don’t know, had some inventory and maybe gave it a shred of attention) and would likely sell about 100 Sportwagons in a year. I’d probably look at the $52K MSRP, the fact I couldn’t find a manual at a dealer if my life depended on it, and even if there was a manual out there it would be white, black, silver or screaming red, with $10K ADM on the sticker and I would say, “$62K are you feckin’ crazy — where are the C7 parked?”

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      The fact that they sell even 3000 is a miracle. The Chevy web site won’t even tell you which dealers have one in stock (tells you to visit the dealer to check for inventory) much less where a manual trans model is located.

      This is one of my pet peeves. I can configure any car on an OEM web site then when the asks if you want to find one they show vehicles with the same color requested but none of the other features selected. Why bother.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Unfortunately, the CTS-V wagon’s low sales killed any chance of GM offering another performance wagon.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It would be interesting to see the retail sales of these cars. Obviously for the Detroit cars the majority were fleet sales. Curious to see the chart as retail only.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      No argument here that the Charger, Taurus, and W-Body Impala are fleet queens – but so are the Maxima (old one at least) and the Avalon.

      The last numbers I saw on Maxima and Avalon show them as serious fleet queens. The Avalon is basically National’s go to premium car.

      Maxima is a bit hard to say with the new model out. Many manufacturers will cut a fleet deal on inventory sitting around on the old model to move it out or keep last model year capacity up. We’re seeing that with the Cruze right now, and we saw it with the last generation Corolla. Don’t know if the new Maxima will follow in the old foot steps.

      LaCrosse – nope…fleet level last I saw was at Toyota Corolla level (percentage, not total numbers). I’m also not under the impression the 300 is a big fleet queen either – compared to say Charger, Impala, Taurus, Avalon, Maxima.

      None of these cars stand up well on the merit of their retail sales.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    Do any of these cars look like the designer’s best work? Do any of these make you stop thinking about German sedans?

    I don’t see why GM can’t give the Impala a real fine design. It’s a nice car but the lines are still awkward in places. The new Malibu is better, but not exactly grand.

    The new Charger is pretty raffish looking. But I’d be comparing prices with a Hyundai Genesis, which really looks hot.

    As for the rest, I get the feeling that the manufacturers just had the feeling that they didn’t want to alienate dull people.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      LOL as if most any of today’s generic German sedans are anything special. It’s like looking at Audi’s bar of plain soap vs BMW’s plain bar of soap. Most everyday folks I talk to can’t even tell one apart from the other.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    americans are finally waking up to what other countries have known for decades- hatchbacks are more practical than trunks.

    things have improved since the bad old days of booming rattling “cheap” cars with inadequate HVAC to keep up with the extra interior room.

    now theyre insulated, quiet, upscale hatchbacks on stilts. only took 20+ years to get rid of the stigma of omnirizons, X-bodies, escorts, rabbits, pulsars….

    AMC eagle was 35 yrs too early

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Last Memorial week I was in San Francisco and Nappa Valley. My wife made the reservation which included airplane, hotel, and car rental. We were suppose to get a Ford Fusion but when we got to SF there were no Fusions and we got to choose from two rows of sedans both midsize and full size. Most of the people rushed to the Camrys, Altimas, Sonotas, and Optimas which were basic rental models. There was a Dodge Charger and a Chevy Impala LTZ (older version) but loaded with sun roof, heated leather seats, spoiler in bright metallic red with black leather. I chose the Impala and my wife and I loved the comfort and roominess. I was impressed with the power of the V-6 with not much less mpgs than a I-4. When we went back to the airport to catch our flight we hated to give the Impala up. We loved that car. I have driven many other 4 door sedans of various sizes and makes even other Impalas and this Impala was the only one of them that I regret returning and would have bought. We have a Honda CRV and love it but there is definitely a place for sedans.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Face it – those who need a full size family car are driving full size 4 door RWD pickups. They have the V8 and bench seats front and rear, and with a lockable metal bed cover they have decent trunk space, plus you can see out in all directions like a ’78 Impala. The full size FWD V6 cars today have the same front bucket/console in front as the midsize, with the same lack of visibility and nearly the same interior space. They’re just bigger on the outside and more difficult to maneuver with limited side and rear visibility.

    What the family car needs is a tall greenhouse, big trunk, front and rear bench seats, and simple, durable controls. What’s available is 4 door coupes with ergonomic trade-offs for aerodynamics. If GM built 1978 Impalas with peppy, economical V6s or small V8s with decent handling, airbags, and safety items like ABS, they’d sell.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      I agree with your benchmark ’78 Impala. I see them and their GM cousins as the pinnacle of American BOF family sedans. The downsizing of the ’76 model into those sixth generation Impalas was beautifully done resulting in a timelessly handsome and well-proportioned 3-box form.

      They were as reliable as a Chevy pickup, perfectly comfortable for normal driving and as you say had the airy greenhouse. Bringing those back with modern safety and engine tech would simply be a second home run to follow that of their original appearance.

      The only difficulty I might imagine would be that the ride height and resultant confidence inspired by today’s “family pickup” phenomenon (as well as C/SUVs) might literally cast a shadow over even a sedan as good as this fantasy Impala would be. It may be that nothing under, say, 64″ tall will ever again be popular.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Ford 500 met the specifications of having a bench seat, windows with good visibility, and a cavernous trunk. I test drove one when they came out and was impressed. The only problem was the 500 was not a success. Honestly the full size family sedan is a dying species and eventually the full size crew cab pickups will lose some of their luster as they go up in price in order to meet the higher efficiency standards. Also the V-8s will become less available and more expensive as more of the trucks will come with turbo charged V-6s and eventually turbo 4s. My bet is on the crossover which is growing in popularity and will continue to grow in the foreseeable future.

    Also the bench seat is becoming rare in trucks as most new trucks mostly have bucket seats. Even the new Colorado/Canyon come standard with bucket seats. Safety regulations discourage passengers from sitting in the middle of the front seats so most manufacturers have dropped bench seats from most of their vehicles. Bench seats will disappear from vehicles before the manual transmission disappears.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The Five Hundred never had a front bench seat (but was still a great car for all the other reasons you listed).

      But every XL F-150 and Work Truck Silverado etc. has a bench, and most LT Silverados and XLT Fords have the bench too. The bench is still standard on LTZ/Lariat/Laramie, though I couldn’t tell you how many actually get stocked or ordered. Using Ford as an example: In terms of sheer numbers, XL and XLT Fords make up the largest number just by being the fleet special or the volume seller, but the most visible percentage (i.e., the ones that you notice the most) are King Ranch, Platinum, or Raptors, all of which have buckets.

      There’s no bench in the Colorado/Canyon for the same reason no cars have a bench: the vehicle is just too narrow.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        Maybe the 500 did not have a bench seat but that is not why it didn’t sell. As for the bench seats in trucks you can get a full size truck with a bench seat but most on the dealer lots are buckets. Dealers for the most part under stock the work truck trims and many dealers where I live will not stock them at all but will order them for fleets or special order for individuals with no discount. Dealers make more profit on higher trim models even after discounting them. Also there are only lap belts and no shoulder harnesses for middle passengers thus safety wise it is much harder to protect passengers sitting in the middle. As for midsize trucks even though they are narrower you can still fit a passenger in the middle. Having a 99 S-10 with a split bench seat I have done it and it is no less narrow than the rear seat of most midsize cars which are tight as well with 3 adults in the back. If there are only buckets in the front then the manufacturers reduce their liability. Personal injury attorneys are equally responsible for many safety and vehicle changes as Government Regulations.

        If you really need a vehicle that will haul more than a few people you are better off having a minivan or a crossover with 3rd row seating. There is not that much more seating room in a full size crew cab pickup (maybe one additional passenger).

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          If you get a regular cab pickup (and yes, I know nobody does), there’s an anchor point for a shoulder belt in the middle seat.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff S

            Don’t misunderstand me, I prefer a split bench seat over buckets but it appears that the manufacturers are getting away from making vehicles with front bench seats. Also most buyers are gravitating toward higher profile vehicles because they are easier to get in and out of and sitting higher gives drivers better visibility. I think even if they brought back a modern version of a 1977 thru 1990 Chevy Caprice/Impala that most buyers would still choose crew cab full size pickups and crossovers. I like those downsized GM full sizes cars but their time has passed for most. I believe that the midsize, compact, and subcompact sedans will survive but they will not be as dominant as they once were. There will still be a limited number of full size sedans but they will mostly be luxury brands such as Mercedes and BMW for those who really want them and can afford them.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    In thinking about falling sales of full-size cars, I know I won’t be replacing my 2012 Impala with another Impala – I’ll go down at least a notch to a Malibu, most likely.

    As far as the increase of truck sales, I must admit the crew-cab pickups make a lot of sense – after all, the “family” vehicle used to be a buckboard wagon! Same thing, only just 100 years later.

    • 0 avatar
      smr1973

      Hmm… I see a fair number of the new Impalas on my commute through the NW side of Chicago out to the western burbs daily… the rump is big, but the higher trims mitigate that a bit with the shiny bits. I quite like it and am considering it in April when my current lease is up. I’m a committed sedan guy but have never owned anything larger than my last-gen Volvo S60. I’d like to take one more spin at the non-lux-but-has-a-V6 full sizer before it goes the way of the dodo, and I’ve yet to read a bad review or impression, really, of the Impala as what I want it for: a comfortable-as-sh1t commuter and road-tripper for a tall big guy with the occasional passenger load in the back, available with a decent if not fantastic stereo.

      Any reason I shouldn’t look at it?

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Uhhh, maybe because it’s a Chevy, made by GMC?

        Nomex on, fire away. And save your breath…I plead guilty to being a Ford fanboi. At least I know which side of the bread that the butter is on.

        The days of Chevy blocks being the motor of choice for performance are ancient history.

        The CEO of Ford didn’t have to stand in front of a meeting to tell people that “People died in our cars”, with the implication that they did so as a result of GMC’s engineering/design practices.

        And don’t throw out that tired chestnut about Crown Vic’s being vulnerable to burning gastanks when rearended by a car going seventy miles an hour while they are standing still. That was more about lawyers and liability suits than it was about engineering.

        If you think that is a valid criticism of Ford engineering, then which vehicle are you willing to be strapped into while it is rearended by a vehicle going seventy.

        I thought so…

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Where are all these Impalas that people are buying? I never see them on the road.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve got two small kids and am on my third LX car, a 300C. I don’t see what the big deal is. The cars (even the Challenger) fit our family, our stuff and are nice to drive. Much better than a freight train pickup or stodgy CUV.

    So the lower tether anchors are an inch into the seat, that’s not going to stop me from buying the rest of the car.

    The reason there isn’t growth in this segment is because SUVs/CUVs/trucks are more fashionable at the moment, and “midsize” cars offer similar capacity at a discount.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I had a 2015 Charger as a rental and in 700 miles of mixed driving( but mostly highway) I enjoyed everything about the car except the rearward visibility and that the transmission was just a bit slow at times. But rearward vis sucks in nearly any new vehicle and it had a decent backup camera. This was an SXT and as much as I love V8 noise and such, the V6/8spd had more than enough to deal with anything I threw at it. It was a great car, certainly the most enjoyable rental I’ve had in a long time. I’ve been in an uncles V8 Challenger and its impressive, but not worth the premium to me. If the pocketbook would allow, maybe, but the V6 is good enough.

    My reason for why it doesn’t totally work is size. We have an Odyssey for family duty and my car spends most of its life sitting at the airport. Occasionally, I have to make the 4 hour drive to my base in DC, but mostly, it sits. I just don’t really need another 200+ inch car in my garage, in which an Odyssey and Mazda 5 barely fit( along with all the crap with a family of four with twin 5 year olds). And we live pretty simply in an older modest house.

    I don’t doubt that the real world economy of the Charger would match the aging Mazda, but I just don’t need to drive that much car around.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • raph: Edgy!
  • Kyree S. Williams: Hyundai did an even better job on the split-level headlights with the new Santa Fe, which is a...
  • SaulTigh: I flew an Allegiant A319 to Vegas last year. It’s a sweet little plane (and has never had a hull loss...
  • salmonmigration: I used to haul baskets of rigging chain around in a Tacoma back when I worked up in Alaska. Never...
  • Corey Lewis: It’s a mess. There’s so much clutter, which is the opposite of luxury.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States