By on December 14, 2015

14 - 2013 Scion FR-S - Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden

November 2015 produced the lowest full-month U.S. sales total for the Scion FR-S in its history.

November 2015 also produced the sixth consecutive year-over-year Mazda MX-5 Miata monthly sales increase; November was also the fifth consecutive month in which the Mazda MX-5 outsold the Scion FR-S.

The FR-S and MX-5 are clearly not direct rivals. One is sold exclusively as a coupe with rear seats; the other is a two-seat convertible.

But the comparison between the pair, like the forthcoming comparison between the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, is pertinent because of the contrast between old and new. From June 2012, the first full month of availability of the FR-S, through June 2015, the Scion was the fresher sports car parked outside A&W on a Thursday night. However, it suffered from the same malady that typically afflicts most sports cars early on in their tenure: DDDD. Drastically Decreased Demand Disorder.

U.S. FR-S sales peaked at 18,327 units in 2013. (Subaru sold 8,587 BRZs in 2013 and has generally suffered from the same trend as its Scion partner.) FR-S sales slid 23 percent in 2014, the FR-S’s second full year of availability. With the book on 2015 nearly closed, year-over-year volume is down 25 percent, a loss of 3,309 sales over the course of 11 months.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

On the flip side, the MX-5 is surging thanks to the launch of the hyped fourth-generation ND roadster. Between 2006, when the third-generation MX-5 was a new car, and 2012, when the FR-S arrived, MX-5 Miata sales plunged 63 percent in America. Between the FR-S’s May 2012 launch and June 2015, prior to the fourth-generation MX-5’s launch, the Scion outsold the Mazda by nearly three-to-one in the United States.


After averaging more than 1,400 monthly sales heading into 2015, however, the FR-S began the year with three sub-900-sales months and has seen volume slip on a month-to-month basis in each of the last four months. Year-over-year, FR-S sales have fallen in 25 consecutive months.

Since July, 4,171 copies of the FR-S have been sold. Mazda USA reported 5,231 MX-5 Miata sales during the same period, with sales in August (1,344) rising to the highest level since May 2008. Again, the point of the comparison isn’t to highlight the popularity of the MX-5 relative to the FR-S, but rather to make very clear the evidence of DDDD which oppresses virtually every sporting car. The rapid rate with which the FR-S has fallen manifests a particularly egregious form of DDDD, but DDDD has attacked the MX-5 Miata in the past, and it will do so again.

2016 Ford Mustang GT convertible

Less unsettled by the same ailment are America’s highest-volume sporting cars: the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. For five consecutive years, the Chevrolet Camaro sold more than 80,000 copies in the United States, never climbing to the 89,000 mark but never falling lower than 80,567 units. Indeed, in the final full year for the fifth-generation Camaro, 2014, sales rose to the fifth-gen’s second-highest total, marking a fifth consecutive year in which the Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang.

Age has had an impact on the Camaro in 2015, as general consumers and the Bowtie muscle car loyalists became aware of the sixth-generation car’s impending arrival; as Ford’s sixth-generation Mustang became fully available last winter. But General Motors will still easily sell more than 75,000 Camaros in 2015, hardly the kind of 25-percent decline reported by the nearly four-year-old FR-S. Indeed, with the clear-out of 2015 Camaros in full stride in November and new, sixth-gen 2016 Camaros arriving, Camaro volume last month jumped 21 percent.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro

That 21-percent uptick coincided with a sharp 17-percent decrease from the Ford Mustang, the first year-over-year decline reported by the sixth-gen Mustang. More than speaking to the Mustang’s inability to deal with a new Camaro – the Mustang still outsold the Camaro by almost 2,000 units in November – the decline recalled the degree to which Mustang sales exploded to an unusually high early winter performance at this time last year. Mustang sales in November 2015 were still 56 percent higher than the November average from 2010-2013.

Further upmarket, Porsche and Chevrolet are able to hold annual 911 and Corvette sales on a somewhat more even keel. But these are iconic exceptions to the rule. Nissan Z sales are down by a quarter compared with 2010, when the Z was fresh and the market was much, much smaller. Porsche Boxster sales spiked to an eight-year high when it was new in 2013, but sales in 2015 are down by a third compared with 2013. Back down the ladder, the Hyundai Veloster is down by a third compared with 2012, its first full year.

Meanwhile, back at Mazda, even the stirring second-half pace achieved by the MX-5 in 2015 is 26 percent slower than the rate of sales achieved in 2006.

The sports car isn’t dead, nor is it dying. But there’s sufficient evidence supplied to automakers that don’t currently compete in the sports car market, evidence crafted by existing sports cars, to cause those non-participants to stay far, far away.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, 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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42 Comments on “Among Sports Cars, New Beats Old: FR-S Hits New Low As MX-5 Takes Over...”

  • avatar

    “Meanwhile, back at Mazda, even the stirring second-half pace achieved by the MX-5 in 2015 is 26 percent slower than the rate of sales achieved in 2006.”

    I think that pretty clearly shows that sports cars just don’t have much market anymore. In 2006, there were quite a few more competitors, too.

    I think your first graph should have run back to 2006 (or even 2000). That would have shown how these models are hot for 2 years and then decay pretty heavily down to about 5k~10k units a year.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know that I would call the Solstice/Sky competitors. I mean they were on paper but the market disagreed. TT is still around. Z4 and Boxster were still very pricey. Z is still around. What else is there?

      I agree overall though…. sports cars just aren’t moving. Part of it is just the inability for most folks to own something to impractical, but a big part of it is just how much more fun and dynamic regular cars are. Something like a Mazda 3 will satisfy most people who need a healthy helping of driving engagement in their daily lives.

    • 0 avatar

      Very few people would want to have a car that they can play with even if they could afford it. This is made obvious by the prevalence of non-defeatable stability control systems. Even the ones that are defeatable typically require that it be done every single time the car is started. The acceptance of this intrusive nannyism is not indicative of a consumer base that thinks driving should be fun.

      I can’t imagine how anyone who grows up driving an automatic FWD car with stability control could be interested in cars beyond their function as transportation or for peacocking purposes.

  • avatar

    Look. The frs twins are exactly competing with the mx-5, and not really at all with the other cars you mentioned. Relatively low power, low weight entry price point sports cars. The only people not cross shopping them are those who’ve already made up their mind which they prefer. It’s not exactly a crowded segment.

    The Mustang and Camaro are compact rear wheel drive sedans that only happen to come available in two doors (because size and power). The z is old and was always just a value added for Nissan once they developed that chassis for infinite. The formers success should be unsurprising, and not reflect on smaller sports cars, while the latter has no developement schedule of it’s own and had very intentionally been left on the vine by a company that is abandoning the quality end of the market for Costco appeal and already had the gtr to act as a standard bearer.

    The corvette and Porsche are so far away from these other cars on price point that their new car market has nothing to do with the others.

  • avatar

    The Scion got off to a bad start. You can’t have people salivate over the FT86 concept, then disappoint them with the watered down GT car that rolled off the assembly line and expect them to buy it.

  • avatar

    I don’t get why people would choose the Scion badge over the Subaru one. Subaru is a superior badge, and will have better resale value – end of story. Perhaps less willing do deal over at Subaru Town? Constrained supply?

    Also, I’d have a Mustang over Camaro 10 out of 10 times.

    • 0 avatar

      I think (not certain) that the Subaru only comes with a higher trim than what’s available through Scion. They lose out on price, but not because of unwillingness to deal, just because it’s more car.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      There are 3 doors. One door hides a Mustang, another door hides a Camaro, and the third door hides a Chevy Spark. You choose one door and it’s revealed to be the Camaro! You’re given a choice to keep the Camaro, or try to win the Mustang . . . What do you do?
      (With apologies to Monty Hall)

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you feel that Subaru is a better brand than Scion? Scion is just Toyota. In fact here they are just a corner of the Toyota store. I just can’t see one being better than the other. Do you have evidence of any significant difference in resale (adjusted for equipment levels)? The BR-Z costs more and has more standard equipment. But if you don’t want that stuff then the Scion may be a better deal. One may give you a better trade or better financing than the other too. Certainly in my area the Toyota dealer has a MUCH better reputation than the Subaru dealer for sales and service – that alone would swing me their way, even if I bought the car elsewhere or used.

      I find the car very disappointing. It is incredibly competent, yet manages to be boring. Such a shame.

      • 0 avatar

        “Why do you feel that Subaru is a better brand than Scion?”

        Did you really ask that? Look at their current offerings. Look at current sales. Look at brand image.

        They can’t give away the old Whatever-xa/b/c-Corolla stuff they have. Subaru can’t build enough cars, has a great image amongst many people, and is desirable.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, that Pleiades logo is more desirable, but I think most people interested in these cars would know that the two are all but identical.

          I don’t see many Subaru versions around here. Still not sure whether that’s because the dealer is further away or because nobody’s dumb enough to pay the extra money for the same car.

          On the used market, I’d look for a Subaru because the badge more closely relates to the actual content of the car (boxer engine, Impreza-related suspension). But I would not pay more than exactly the premium, by percentage of price, that a new one demands vs. the Scion.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought Scion is the one with the ‘no haggle’ policy.
      But Scion is cheaper compared at MSRP.

      • 0 avatar
        Internet Commenter

        The no haggle policy only applies to the current model year. So you can’t haggle on 2016 models, but you can haggle on 2015 models that haven’t been sold.

  • avatar

    I just bought a new ’15 Scion FR-S two days ago. Three grand off sticker on this example and 0.9% APR on any term of my choice made for a small value delta between new and low-miles used.

    The car I sold the weekend prior to seed a down payment? A Miata.

    Sports cars are more fun than numbers.

  • avatar

    Is there some kind of CAFE or insurance-cost reason for small cars to have two useless back “seats”? Because those things in the back of the Toyobaru (or other cars of similar size) cannot actually be occupied by human beings, except for the limited use case of toting toddlers around town. (And even then, not kids you like.)

  • avatar

    I fail to see how the Scionbaru and the Miata are not direct competitors regardless of the fixed top or lack thereof. The FR-S’ “back seats” are a nicely upholstered briefcase holder. And the market IS expanding slightly with Fiat’s version of the Miata coming to a Fiat Studio near you soon.

    I think a simple explanation for the relatively slow sales of cute little sporty cars is the economy of the past 6-8 years. People feel like they can’t spend money on toys, and for most buyers, these cars are toys.

    What does baffle me is that Mazda doesn’t make a fixed roof Miata. Seems like an absolute no brainer to do, and it would increase the market interest in the car substantially. No shortage of Miata owners around here who never seem to put the top down even on the nicest days.

  • avatar

    I called this back when everyone was geegaw over this thing. Pre-pigeonholed by the stupid Scion marque doesn’t help anything.

    • 0 avatar

      Right there with you. I also said this would be a flop – fans will point out it hit first year US sales target – which was about the only region that hit target. Even Toyota called it a flop by 2014.

      Four years of hype by Toyota PR drove the buying public into a frenzy. You’d of thought the FR-S was cold fusion powered and capable of time travel the week before it came out.

    • 0 avatar

      I like that you said geegaw, by the way.

  • avatar

    I traded in my FR-S on a 2016 Miata Club two months ago. I like a sporty daily driver and tend to change them every three years. I guess I have a high bar for if one of these is worth keeping longterm. The FR-S didn’t get there but I did have a blast modding it. Out of the box, the Miata is better in most ways.

  • avatar

    Also chatter has it that Honda wants to bring back the S2000. I don’t think the market is dead for these sporty cars in any way. They just aren’t going to offer a big profit to the maker. But maybe they get the guy buying one to consider their CUV or sedan or truck. FR-S, Miata, Golf R, GT350 – It’s a halo car for the brand. Development costs can’t be considered solely on the accounting sheet, IMO.

  • avatar

    The FR-S was a flop. Four years of Toyota hype and promises didn’t help. Not delivering on horsepower, performance, weight, or price point numbers when it finally arrived didn’t help. Detroit grade product quality in the first model year, with Corvette C7 grade engine quality on the initial batch into market sure didn’t help. The Coleman cooler plastic fantastic interior on the Toyota sure didn’t help.

    Ya, ya, ya, first model year US barely hit sales targets, and by Toyota’s own admission missed everywhere else in the world. Even Toyota has said the FR-S and its various global nameplates was a dud. Toyota has refused to address the core issues because the sales numbers don’t exist to address the core issues.

    It should have been called a Toyota Celica. It should have had a better interior – at least from a material quality and fit and finish stand point. It shouldn’t have gone with the Subbie NA engine and its wonky torque curve.

    It has a lot of the exact same problems the ATS has:

    * Good driving dynamics
    * Wrong package
    * Wrong interior

    Buyers know it and that’s why they aren’t buying.

    • 0 avatar

      Difference between the two is that the ATS is still the ‘cheap Cadillac’ and GM managed to shuffle out a LOT of Cateras based on that.

      The FR-S is…well…missed opportunities by so, so much. And I’ll reiterate that the worst competitor to the FR-S is the tC, because to Joe Average, the tC is much more car for much less money.

      I still say its not too late:

      1) Restyle/refresh/reintroduce as the Toyota Celica to capitalize on name recognition. Why this wasn’t done in the beginning is baffling. Scion in the US market means that box toaster thing with the packing-taped license plate lamp bezel that a bearded manchild drops your pizza off in. Celica rings true to enthusiasts and ‘the common man’ alike. This also removes it from the sinking GEO-dom that is Scion and gets it off that stupid Pure Pricing scheme that I guarantee hurts more than it helps when a local Subaru dealer *IS* willing to dicker.

      2) Use a Toyota 4-cylinder – either a turbo unit from the NX200t or the ‘big-4’ from the tC/base Camry. Maybe a Camry V6 for a top-rung ‘GT’ model. The Subaru boxer adds zero to the overall mission of this car. That mission, btw, is not to be Jalopnik beat-off material but to actually SELL.

      3) Run the gamit with options, from a stripper ‘SPEC’ model to a full-tilt Limited with leather, sunroof, navi, premium JBL audio and more.

      4) BUILD A CONVERTIBLE. No, its not a big market, but its an exposure market and can be profitable if done right. Toyota sells every single unit with limited days-in-stock though a combination of smart rental fleeting (they brazenly fleet-dump like everyone else now anyway) and smart contenting. Yes, Virginia, a retired couple will park a $38k Celica Limited V6 California Special with two-tone leather, 19″ wheels, and dual-exhaust tips alongside their $48k Highlander at their winter bungelow in Dunedin. Women would love a convertible they feel confident in re: reliability; 4-cyls with sassy leatherette patterns and bright colors for high-20s? SOLD.

      Someone tell me why that doesn’t work. Better yet, someone tell me how Car and Driver OMGZEZORG MY PANTS ARE WET articles mean anything when this thing ends its one and only generation stateside.

  • avatar
    Internet Commenter

    I test drove an FR-S in 2013 and thought it was a great handler and liked the styling, but I wasn’t thrilled with the engine note or the sensation of power. This is coming from someone who was driving a 1st gen Scion xB at the time (103 hp). The seats felt great, but the rest of the interior just felt and looked too cheap to even be in the xB. Consider I bought the xB in 2006 and it sold new for like $16k and the FR-S MSRP was around $25k. The forums also suggested that these cars are really hit or miss in terms of fit/finish and reliability. I passed and held onto the xB.

    I test drove a 2016 Miata (GT spec) this summer and loved it, although I was hesitant to pull the trigger since it’s almost certain the the PHRT is coming in the next year or so. This is important living in Ohio and it would’ve been my only vehicle. Passed.

    The xB was rear ended last week and I was ready to bite the bullet and just buy the soft-top Miata, but the color/spec I wanted wasn’t available and I wasn’t in a position to wait/order. A new 2015 FR-S was also available for about $5k off MSRP and I really wanted to like it, but everything I disliked about it in 2013 was only amplified after driving the GT Miata. I preferred the ride/handling of the FR-S, although the interior of the GT was like the Ritz in comparison.

    Therefore, I ended up getting a 2016 Accord sedan EX-L, lol. It was the most rationale choice for my situation considering that I couldn’t get what I really wanted (the Miata). I figure I’ll drive the Accord until the PHRT Miata comes out, wait a year for the inevitable bugs to get worked out and then trade in the Accord.

    Parting thoughts:

    1. The FR-S was somewhat compelling when there wasn’t any competition. It’s a much tougher sell today and will be even tougher if/when Honda introduces the S2000 successor.

    2. The FR-S/BRZ have basically been left to die on the vine without any substantive improvements since being launched.

    3. I hope the GT86 goes to an inline 4 if it lives to see another generation. The fact that you have to drop the engine to change spark plugs is absurd. I question how much the higher center-of-gravity would affect the handling, particularly with the stock LRR tires.

    4. I hope the PHRT doesn’t ruin the silhouette of the soft-top.

  • avatar

    The 86 twins have been out for 3 years now. Toyota and Subaru have had time to digest what the market wants. They failed to address the biggest complaint at all–the lack of OEM power.

    I don’t want a facelifted BRZ if it still has 200 hp. 230-240 would be a good start, and I would bet that people are willing to pay good money for a factory power upgrade.

    The twins were probably not designed to compete with the MX-5, but the new ND must be giving them a reality check. A car with 45 less HP is matching your 0-60 time. That doesn’t mean your car is terrible, but you do need to do something about it. Wake up!!

    • 0 avatar

      The problem can be summed up in three letters : WRX. The twins are sitting at barely $1k under the WRX’ starting price, and to add that kind of power to the 2.0L in the twins will require forced induction, which will jack up the price to WRX levels or beyond.

      There’s a very small subset of people who would choose this car over a WRX. I’m one of them – but I also have a Forester for when the weather turns to crap. For an only car, nobody would or should be buying this over the Rex.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Time for a turbo. The engine on those things so severely lack torque and a small turbo would completely transform the car.

  • avatar

    People are talking about more this and more that. I think there are two distinct ways in which the car could be fixed.

    1. Add more power for the more power group (Wrx owners etc)

    2. Add more reliability and a nicer interior for the group that wants a rwd civic si or miata

    I fall into group two. I have played with buying an frs twice now, but the value is not there for me. The miata is a great toy and the mustang makes a much more comfortable daily driver to sit in traffic with. At 5k off on a 2015, I may reconsider. However a 2013-2014 v6 performance pack mustang is selling for 16-18k and likely has reliability.

  • avatar

    It looks like the Miata is already trending back to selling 500 to 600 per month.

  • avatar

    I’m selling some leftover go-faster bits from my sold Miata and soon-gone Mazda6. I get some pretty persistent Craigslist texts from dullards wanting half price, then revealing they don’t even have the money. When I read about what the FT86 twins “need” on the internet, I imagine the same people grasping at the same improbable aspirations.

    People also are vain about badges, specific output, heritage, and other things that don’t contribute anything to the experience, yet want to link these intangibles to the price tag in a 1:1 ratio. Everything for nothing.

    Here’s the reality about the car: the FR-S is fine, great even. It drives just like a normal car. It will trundle along at 35 MPH in sixth gear. It pulls from point-to-point in traffic without issue. Everything you touch inside is mission/price-appropriate. The important interfaces are great: chunky steering wheel, slick shifter, forgiving clutch take-up, bolstered seats, simple switch gear at hand. The car looks neato in person, always worth a second look over your shoulder as you walk away from the parking spot.

    I have crapcan-raced, lapped, autocrossed, rallycrossed, wrenched on, and daily-driven tons of old standards in the enthusiast community. The twins are right there in the greatest hits collection, cheap and cheerful. The car fails to sell not because it’s broken. It doesn’t sell because it’s a small sports car, which happens to sports cars always and forever.

    After the late 90s sporty car drought, we should be thankful that we are so spoiled for choice. This is a golden era with fun packaged in myriad shapes, sizes, and prices.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right; the car is fabulous. Rather, it was, in 2012. Today, as most people have noticed, Subaru’s own WRX can be had for just a few more bucks. Same plain interior quality, but with far more power and two more doors.

      Everyone who wanted one and could afford one of the twins, likely has one by now. Want them to trade in? Most of them want a little more power. Want to attract new buyers who have the means to buy one? I think they want a few more horses too.

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