By on October 5, 2016

2015-2017 Toyota Camry SE silver

This is the fourth overall edition of TTAC’s Midsize Sedan Deathwatch. The midsize sedan as we know it  — “midsizedus sedanicus” in the original latin — isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but the ongoing sales contraction will result in a reduction of mainstream intermediate sedans in the U.S. market. How do we know? It already has.


As more proof of a struggling midsize sedan sector, September 2016 sales tumbled 11 percent year-over-year, a loss of more than 21,400 U.S. sales for a segment that was already losing an average of 21,600 sales per month during the first two-thirds of 2016.

The Toyota Camry, America’s top-selling midsize car and the most popular car in America over the last 14 consecutive years, was outsold by its own compact sibling in September. Yet the Camry’s sales decline, in line with the segment average, was by no means unusual in September. Aside from a modest Nissan Altima increase and a jump in sales of the new Chevrolet Malibu, every midsize nameplate generated fewer sales this September than last.

Camry volume slid 11 percent, a loss of 3,780 sales, as the smaller Corolla sedan jumped 17 percent, outselling the Camry on a sedan-to-sedan basis by nearly 1,600 units. (Toyota also linked an additional 1,105 Scion iM/Corolla iMs to the Corolla nameplate’s tally in September, strengthening its grip on September’s number one position.)

USA midsize car sales chart 2016 Q1-Q3

The Camry’s loss of the top overall position marked just the second time this year America’s favourite midsize car wasn’t America’s favourite car overall. But the Camry’s decline wasn’t as consequential in real volume terms as the decreases felt by the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and the dying Chrysler 200.

The Fusion’s 18-percent drop translated to 4,372 fewer sales. (Compared with 2015, Ford’s company-wide fleet volume was loaded to the front end of 2016, causing the second-half to appear worse.)

A 19-percent decrease in Honda Accord volume equals 6,437 lost sales.

The Chrysler 200, soon to disappear, is struggling to clear out remaining examples. September volume tumbled by 6,759 units, year-over-year, to only 3,185 sales. Heading into September, Chrysler had around 20,000 200 sedans in stock.

But even without the Chrysler 200’s sharp drop, U.S. sales of continuing midsize cars fell 8.0 percent in September 2016, slightly worse than the 7.3-percent decline felt by the overall passenger car market. Year-to-date, even excluding the 200, midsize volume is down by 105,000 sales.

And it’s based on these numbers that we predict the Chrysler 200 will not be the last midsize sedan to kick the oil-stained bucket; it will not be the last midsize sedan to give up the ghost of midsizers past: Sebrings, Avengers, Milans, Galants, Kizashis, Auras, and G6s. There are no automobile manufacturers on the outside of the midsize sedan sector looking in. There are some on the inside, however, that won’t bother to be inside for the long haul.

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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60 Comments on “Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #4: September Sales Plummet 11%, a 21,000-Unit Drop...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That 200 decline might be lower if Mr. FCA president had professed any faith in the product at all. But imagine that, people don’t buy something when they see the person who made it on the news, saying it’s crap.

    And that faux window on the C-pillar of the Camry is just awful. Extend that trim down so the roof doesn’t look so needlessly fast, and put a real window there like on ’80s aero sedans. Improvement!

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I know! Its like he took the opposite approach as Lee Iacocca’s “if you can find a better car, buy it”.

      Sergio might as well have said “you can find a better car in our competitor’s showrooms, so buy it.”

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I find the “window” cutout on the Camry to be a direct homage (ripoff?) of the redesigned roofline on the ’89 Olds Cutlass Ciera/Buick Century.

      http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/2034/3281/5084140011_large.jpg

      Which says a lot about the Camry’s place in the domestic market, really.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Oh Lordy, the Camry is a modern Cutlass!

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          The 200 isn’t failing because it’s a bad car, it’s failing because the competition is just better. I’ve experienced them in the same way most people have, as rentals, and really didn’t have too many complaints. The 200C has some seriously high quality leather. Flipside of not having too many complaints was not having too many highlights either. Everything was sort of “just ok” where similar cars in the segment are better than “just ok”.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “I’ve experienced them in the same way most people have, as rentals…”

            Which pretty much explains about half the reason this model failed so hard. FCA flooded rental lots with these to make it look like it was selling, and a year later, then end up on the used lot at the Chrysler dealer for $10-15,000 less than the brand new one a few feet away. Og Mandino couldn’t close that sale.

            Plus, the product isn’t really all that. Add it up: prescription for epic fail. A shame, because this ain’t a bad car at all.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        +1 that’s the first thing I thought when I saw it. Horrible.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        lol, I’m sure Toyota was really looking to channel the 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera when designing the Camry. Come on.

      • 0 avatar
        guy922

        LOL. All is see is a very bloated 1992 Corolla, but you a right about the 1989 Cutlass Ciera lol.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      The 200 is a good and somewhat unique product in a segment where uniqueness does not sell and “good” is not good enough.

      My rental 4-cylinder had a herky-jerky transmission and the sight lines were questionable at best. Low roofline + thick pillars made me nervous with every lane change. The rear door opening is tiny and the rear seat space is smaller than competitors. These are not issues that cannot be adapted to, but buyers of midsize sedans are not looking to adjust to a new car as one would adjust to the quirks of a desirable sports car, or tolerate the quirks of a soulmate.

      These are appliances, and the 200 is a good appliance in a class of better. Too bad it’s a fair bit prettier than its technically superior classmates.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I really don’t know why people make it sound like a giant mystery why the Chrysler 200 never sold that well. It had a really cramped interior for it’s class, and a garbage transmission. Those two things alone are more than enough to kill sales when there are SO many good competitors. Who in their right mind would pass up the Accord, the Camry, the Fusion, the Sonata, the Altima, the Legacy or the Mazda 6 in order to drive the herky jerky cramped 200?!

        My mother was shopping for a car so I took her around to all the dealerships and the only car that she immediately dismissed was the Chrysler 200 because she immediately thought it was “way too small” inside compared to all the other cars.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The current 200 failed because they bailed on the convertible.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The consolidation will come from automakers combining their midsize and full size lines into one model. These days there is little size difference between the midsize and full size cars each automaker is selling, and both categories are in decline. No point to having 2 products overlapping. Nissan could easily kill the Maxima if they did the next Altima right. Ford is likely killing the Taurus anyway, Toyota doesn’t really need the Avalon if they made the next Camry less junky, The Hyundai Azera is on the way out. VW needs to not waste money designing a special Passat for the US, they could easily go back to giving us the Euro version. That leaves the poor Mazda6. Mazda could redo the car on the current chassis, but it seems to be dying and they may just give it up.

    Can an automaker be successful without a midsize sedan? FCA seems to be about to try it. We shall see.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Since i tried the new Corolla in 2014, I predicted that a lot of folks who went to look for a Camry would end up getting a corolla, much less money and enough room for their needs plus the driving experience was not that much worse, its a no-brainer.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That’s where Camry and Accord sales are going: to their formerly subcompact, now compact models. The Civic and Corolla are now about the same size as the Camry and Accord of 12-15 years ago. The same goes for the Altima, a compact in the ’90s, now a midsized sedan with not much more room than a well laid out compact. The current Sentra is now the same size as the ’90s Altima.

      Add the fact that full size cars have shrunk to slightly larger than midsize (Chrysler 200=193″, 300=198″), and it’s hard to see why anyone would want a midsized sedan. The deathwatch is appropriate.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Most of the OEMs that are producing these now will keep producing them because the platforms are shared with other vehicles. As long as the platform performs well as a whole, they’ll be kept.

    Chrysler is is in a different position because Marchionne is managing for short-term gains as he tries to dig the company out of the enormous hole that it was in when he found it as he copes with Fiat’s issues in Europe. Hence, the emphasis on performance (brand building) and anything that produces significant profit; he can’t afford at this juncture to manage very much of the business for the long term.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well the Accord is good but a older design, not sure about the Camary , it may just look like it has been around a few years longer than it is, these 2 move the most metal and neither one has a new look at me model. I may be in the market for a new seven/ wagon and really non of these excite me.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I sent Bark M a full email, but I want to hear some reasons why someone shouldn’t buy a 2015+ 200S V6 over other V6 mainstreamers and older automatic sport sedans (i.e. 335i, G37 etc). I’m struggling to come up with some reasons besides the whole FCA thing.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Because the ZF 9-speed automatic is about the worst transmission money can buy right now.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Sporty,
        The 200 is a decent car, and if what you want is basic transportation, you are smart to save money over competitors and get one. If you take pleasure in how well made switchgear works, or in cutting a specific line on a curve, or a beautiful engine note, then the 200 will disappoint. But if you are a typical American driver, enjoy the 200 as the epitome of FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      An Accord V6 has all of the performance and better rear seat space, better window sight lines and likely better reliability. And without the 9-speed AT troubles.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I think others have hit all the main points. The 200 sounds awesome on paper, especially buying lightly used as a massive discount. Nice leather interior, all the doo-dads, V6+AWD, handsome styling (IMO). But they get the fundamentals wrong in more ways than one. Poor visibility, a funky transmission that may or may not ever finally be reliable and shift correctly after the ump-teenth relfash, a mail-slot trunk, less passenger room than any number of competitors. For someone that can live with the visibility issues and doesn’t really need to haul much aside from themselves on a commute, I’d say it could still be a good option, I’d just make sure to get some iron-clad extended warranty that covered my entire period of ownership.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Of the ~25 times a week I hop in my car to go somewhere, I’d say 20-22 of those times I’m alone. It may be cramped compared to midsize mainstreamers, but it a good bit roomier than my Civic and significantly roomier than some of the sport sedans I’m looking at where I need it- back seat space for an infant seat. Definitely not writing off the reliability issues….. but I’ve been averaging a car change every ~2 years for the last decade, so I’d be willing to gamble a little bit….

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “back seat space for an infant seat.”

            I think the lower roof and resulting tighter door opening, when combined with the lesser rear legroom, of the 200 really does end up making a difference when compared to some of the more upright roomier entrants in the segment. Not unusable by any means, but it’s one of the many small things that Chrysler got wrong that add up in total to make it less than the sum of its parts.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Compared to other midsizers I can see how it doesn’t add up and is cramped. But compared to other cars I’m looking at (G37, old IS350, 335i) it’s a class bigger in size, particularly in the back seat, at least on paper.

            Like I said I wrote a letter to Bark M.’s column that goes more in detail but I think I’m going to go check one out this weekend.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Read Consumer Reports. Even putting aside predicted reliability, the 200 just isn’t very good, relatively speaking.

      Among car people, it gets far more credence than it really deserves.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        CR has OK things to say about the only versions I’d be considering- FWD V6 C and S models with U-Connect. Only real sore spot is that 9AT, which I want to drive myself to get an opinion on. It’s a LOT of car for <20K

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    The Corolla is a far better car than the Camry. With the Corolla being a fairly new design, it makes the Camry’s mild refresh look horrible.

  • avatar
    alluster

    The one car I really want to see disappear forever is up 50% in retail sales. I am talking of course about the dog turd that Chevy passes off as their midsize sedan. Hurts my head every time I see one. Even the name is as un-sexy as they come.

    From GM’s press release on retail sales: “Malibu, Cruze, Corvette, Camaro and Volt were up 50 percent, 6 percent, 16 percent, 10 percent and 117 percent, respectively”

    Disclaimer: GM fanboy frustrated with their new styling direction. Looking forward to the day everyone involved with the new Malibu. Cruze, Equinox, and XT5 is fired.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      “Disclaimer: GM fanboy frustrated with their new styling direction. Looking forward to the day everyone involved with the new Malibu. Cruze, Equinox, and XT5 is fired.”

      Well, Ed Welburn retired July 1st (June 30th?) so the next GM head designer might have some new ideas.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I suspect the current crop of fail was still frozen while Wellburn was still in charge several years ago. I say the next concepts and model will reflect whatever direction is to be taken (which will hopefully improve but I don’t count on it).

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Well the sales seem to dictate otherwise. Seeing new 2016/2017 Malibu’s everywhere

  • avatar
    alluster

    A midsize sedan deathwatch when gas prices are low is the same as a pickup truck deathwatch when gas prices are high. Neither is going anywhere, at least in America. Aren’t midsize sedans the best selling passenger cars? Aren’t they also the best selling passenger cars for just about every mainstream automaker?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      but then the headline can’t use the word “deathwatch”. How will they sell papers???

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It is looking like CUVs are displacing mid-size sedans as the best-selling passenger cars. Pickup trucks have already displaced sedans as the best-selling passenger vehicles.

      thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/09/didnt-take-five-years-toyota-rav4-outsold-toyota-camry-august-2016/

  • avatar
    Prado

    Isn’t the Camry getting kicked out of the Indiana Subaru plant sometime soo? Will another Toyota plant pick up the production, or will they just sell less Camrys going forward. Anyone know?

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Camry production already ceased in May, according to the factory website:
      http://subaru-sia.wixsite.com/indiana/about

      • 0 avatar
        Prado

        Well there you go. Camry sale will be significantly less going forward because they are making significantly less of them. That doesn’t make for good click bait though. Let the Camry death watch continue!

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          That’s just silly Prado. You think they’re seriously that stupid to just say “oh well this plant is closing, we’re just going to walk away from 100k+ units a year.” I have little doubt that Toyota will continue to crank out every Camry they think they can sell, and will shift production to any number of plants in the US or overseas to accomplish that.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Toyota has plenty of other production capacity worldwide that they can swap over to build the Camry. It’s just that they’re unveiling a new version next year anyway for the 2018 model year so they’re likely just waiting to retool for that one since it makes no sense to try to build an assembly line for a car you’re not going to make anymore after this year.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    If we had to speculate which midsizers would not be here for the long haul, which model(s) do you guys think would be most likely get the axe and why?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      As PCH wrote above, you have to play in the midsize car game to get into the midsize crossover game, which is where the margins are. I don’t expect any carmaker that is serious about the US market to exit, except FCA which is eating next year’s seed.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think the only one I can see falling from that list entirely is the Passat. VW could get by with just the Jetta and whatever Jetta-L type thing they sell in China. The Passat is superfluous.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        They’d probably be better off just bringing an unmodified Euro Passat over, no? It can’t be hard to certify with it being on the same platform as their new 3 row CUV and similar or same drivetrain options. Plus it offers AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’v extolled the virtues of the refreshed Passat 1.8TSI here before and I don’t want to be copy-pasting, but the TL;DR is that it is a highly refined and super roomy midsizer that drives/looks like something entry level luxury car even in lower/midgrade SE trim. The Jetta in lower trims feels like a more generic cheap compact (when you sit in it) that happens to have very nice suspension tuning and excellent highway manners. There’s a vast difference in ‘feel,’ Passat is not superfluous in the least. The fact that you can get one of these Americanized Passat SEs (with heated seats, moonroof, adaptive cruise all standard) for about $20-21k if you shop around is nothing short of incredible. A Euro-Passat could never match that value.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I mostly mentioned the Passat because of the current financial situation at VW. I think the Jetta and Passat are close enough in size that they could do away with it. I look for a product lineup slimming at VW of A soon as they attempt to cut costs.

          The Euro Passat wouldn’t happen.

  • avatar
    Baruna

    Honest question, why do people still by midsize cars? Small cars now have much better room and better gas mileage. SuV’s tend to be more comfortable and offer better views of the road. They are also more utilitarian.

    Why even buy a Camry?

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Because people got to drive places. Midsized cars are still a great products for someone who drives 12000+ miles a year, has a couple kids, and likes to be comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Larger more powerful engines, larger trunks, greater width and overall interior volume, superior feel on the road etc. The Accord still feels and drives more substantial than the Civic overall. Same for the Camry versus Corolla which feels tinny and underpowered in comparison. Same goes for the Malibu versus Cruze. Some of us just want a little more room and refinement and power in our rides. Why is this so hard to comprehend?

    • 0 avatar
      mchan1

      Why is it SO hard to comprehend that other people have different needs?

      The Accord/Camry/Altima are Bigger cars, Still much bigger in interior room which many people prefer especially TALLER drivers. It also has more power and some more refinement like better NVH or better quality interior materials.

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