Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #4: September Sales Plummet 11%, a 21,000-Unit Drop

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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midsize sedan deathwatch 4 september sales plummet 11 a 21 000 unit drop

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.)

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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  • JLGOLDEN JLGOLDEN on Oct 05, 2016

    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?

    • See 4 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Oct 06, 2016

      @gtem 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.

  • Baruna Baruna on Oct 06, 2016

    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?

    • See 3 previous
    • Mchan1 Mchan1 on Oct 06, 2016

      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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