By on November 8, 2016

2017 Subaru Legacy SportThis is the fifth 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.


U.S. sales of midsize cars plunged by 20 percent in October 2016, a year-over-year loss of nearly 39,000 sales for a segment that was already down by nearly 195,000 through the first three-quarters of 2016.

American consumers, businesses, government agencies, and daily rental fleets are still on pace to purchase and lease more than two million midsize cars in calendar year 2016. Of course, Americans had already purchased and leased more than two million midsize cars at this point in 2015, when the midsize sedan decline was already underway.

Regardless of what came before, October’s results were a punch in the midsize sector’s gut, as total sales fell by a fifth because of declines reported by every player in the category.

Save for the Subaru Legacy.

USA midsize sedan sales chart October 2016 YTDCompared with October 2015, U.S. sales of the Subaru Legacy jumped 8 percent despite the brevity of the sales month. (There were only 26 “selling days” in October 2016, down from 28 in October 2015.) It was the Legacy’s ninth year-over-year improvement in the last year. The 6,136-unit total fell just 4 percent below the Legacy’s highest-volume month ever: 6,362 sales in October 2014.

Legacy aside, however, not a single midsize car generated more sales in October 2016 than in October 2015. Most of the declines measured in the double digits. (Nissan Altima sales were down just 3 percent; Hyundai Sonata sales were down 7 percent.)

The Ford Fusion, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Optima, and Chevrolet Malibu collectively fell 28 percent, a loss of 19,845 sales for a quartet which accounts for one-third of the segment’s volume.2016 Chrysler 200S AWD, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles North AmericaNot surprisingly, Chrysler continues to struggle to clear out remaining examples of the dying 200 sedan. FCA dealers had a 156-day supply of nearly 20,000 Chrysler 200s heading in to October, according to Automotive News. But 200 sales plunged 69 percent to only 2,843 units in October.

7.3 percent of the midsize cars sold in America in the first ten months of 2015 were Chrysler 200s. This year, with production shutdowns early in the year and then FCA’s announcement that the 200 and its Dodge Dart cousin would meet a premature death, the 200’s share of the market fell to 2.9 percent.

The Mazda 6, chronically unsuccessful and now particularly rare, fell 18 percent to 2,924 sales in October, only 81 sales ahead of the dying Chrysler. Ranked 11th in the category in year-to-date volume, Mazda has lost nearly 12,000 Mazda 6 sales already this year.

At the top of the heap, with a new Toyota Camry due shortly and a new Honda Accord not far off, either, sales of America’s two best-selling midsize cars are down 7 percent so far this year.

All of their rivals, combined, are down 14 percent.

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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38 Comments on “Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #5: October 2016 Sales Plunge 20 Percent, Most Cars Down By Double Digits...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    This doesn’t surprise me a bit. Sedans are becoming more impractical because of gun slit glass and the general lack of visibility and increasingly cramped interior room due to coupe styling, especially in the back seat area.

    An aging population that buys new cars could be a major factor, too. Guilty as charged!

    The popular choices of CUV/SUV/trucks make cars a lesser option for those who want practicality.

    Hope all you TTAC’ers who only buy used enjoy all those crossovers that will be on the market in a couple of years! Much fewer sporty car options for you may be available.

    For me, I still prefer a car, and although I’ve said this at least twice previously, my choice right now would be a Chevy Cruze hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Why do all these whipper-snappers think us old folk can’t get in and out of cars. That’s why I have a Lotus, keeps me young. Now get off my lawn!

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Why do all these whipper-snappers think us old folk can’t get in and out of cars”

        Well, although my knees are still OK, many older ones’ knees aren’t. That’s what you get for playing sports way too long! That explains some of it. However, when we had a 2007 Mazda MX5 a little over 4 years ago, getting out of the car in the garage made my left knee begin to protest, so there’s definitely something there.

        My Impala is much taller and quite easy to get in and out of. So, yes, Wifey and I get in and out of cars rather easily – at least most of them!

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Zackman, I present to you what I’ve termed the “Kenmore special:” google “Toyota Brevis”

      A Japan only luxury model based on the gen 1 Lexus IS (Toyota Altezza elsewhere). It has a raised roof with huge windows, a very softly tuned suspension with about 6.3 inches of ground clearance stock. Oh and plenty of chrome trim on the exterior. Tidy dimensions for easy parking to boot!

      auto-database.com/image/toyota-brevis-pictures-4034.jpg

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Unfortunate development for people who love cars. This will certainly end up squeezing the smaller volume models out of production eventually. Sad.

    However, great problem to have for automakers who would love to sell you a midsize car, but would love even more to sell you a hatchback version of that midsize car with 3 more inches of ground clearance for a hefty markup. It is the exact formula that eventually doomed the wagon. Why sell a wagon at midsized car prices when you can add cladding, a little ground clearance and another $10k to the sticker.

    Not a horrible problem for folks like me as I will happily snap up an unwanted sedan for a discount.

    Personally, I feel that one of the biggest reasons for the growth of crossovers isn’t their practicality, desirability….its the fact that everything else has become so huge that its simply nicer to drive a vehicle with a tall seating position when practically everything on the road obstructs your view of turns, oncoming traffic, the road ahead when you drive a sedan. Its a critical mass issue. So many trucks, so many large crossovers makes driving a low slung sedan in heavy traffic more difficult and at times even unpleasant. Ive been tempted by the dark side myself, but I will not let despair and fear overcome me.

    So I will go ahead and blame this development on the pickup truck. It is the scourge of our highways and biways. It is the antithesis to the joy of driving and they have become so comically large and abundant, that the rest of us have had to adapt.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      +1000. Excellent summary.

    • 0 avatar
      cheezman88

      I think its a combination of better fuel economy and handling for CUVs, and midsize sedans becoming just a bit too big. I drove the current gen Fusion a couple years back and it just felt so massive. It felt like there was so much car around me that i had to be extra careful in parking lots, etc. I prefer well made compact sedans than CUVs though. I haven’t found a CUV that i actually want to own.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        I think you nailed it. The mid sizers are the new full size, and as that reality has set in the market has reverted to its preference for cars about the size of current compact sedans. I absolutely understand when family shoppers think that if they’re going to go big they might as well get big cargo capacity from an suv.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      You are certainly partly correct. The improved view from taller vehicles is made necessary by the abundance of tall vehicles. I think ingress and egress also play a role. Additionally, these cars provide a more chair like seating position, with seat bottoms further from the floor, which has been shown to improve comfort on long drives. Throw in the availability of AWD and increased cargo room, and it becomes an obvious choice for many people.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      I am with you on pickups.

      However, I am paying $158/month for my 2015 Chevy Traverse including tax. It is a superb vehicle that does everything well and suits my family needs. It is limo-comfortable and quiet. The suspension is extremely well damped — feels very European. It is roomy everywhere, including for three adults in the third row and enough cargo room behind the third row that we almost always have the third row up for day to day shopping trips and the like. The steering has great feel and reasonable precision. It feels good even after driving my BMWs with their wonderful telepathic steering feel. Just about the only enthusiast-grade complaint I have is the brake feel — does not measure up to my BMWs/Mercedes at all. The OE tires are terrific — first time ever for me!!! I almost always replace OE tires as soon as I get a car because I am crazy about tires. It is quite fast, never feels underpowered and actually gets better gas mileage than my 550i RWD sedan. It handles very well, never puts a wheel wrong when I have to push it to 10/10. I do tremendously enjoy its elevated seating position, its large mirrors that eliminate blind spots, its comfortable and supportive heated seats, its outstanding utility and its long legs on very long trips (20+ hours non-stop.)

      I had a midsize sedan before the Traverse that I used for the same purpose (long trips and some commuting.) It was just terrible. The worst ever. I could not wait for the lease to be over. Not because of any objective criteria: its engine had plenty of power, its manual transmission was easy to use, it had reasonable steering feel, it was superbly roomy and I got 38 mpg on long trips! But it was just so god awful to drive! And it cost me $225/month, way more than my Traverse.

      It was a 2012 VW Passat. I test drove a 2017 Passat the other day. I expected it to be better. But it was so much worse — no steering feel whatsoever (like a video game!!!!!) with gutless, noisy engine, very noisy interior and rough underdamped ride. Terrible!

      NO THANK YOU!

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “… I am paying $158/month for my 2015 Chevy Traverse including tax.”

        $158/month? That’s great, but how are you doing that? Is that a lease or did you put down at least $15K?

        Just curious.

        • 0 avatar
          vvk

          24 month lease 12k miles per year $0 at signing (no registration or any other fees, literally paid NOTHING during pickup.)

          I got about $11k in discounts on $37k MSRP. Good money factor, etc. Lease through US Bank.

          Took about 10 minutes via e-mail with the salesman. Easiest deal ever.

          • 0 avatar
            thegamper

            This is a spectacular deal. Accomplished with huge cap cost reduction and probably pie in the sky residuals I suspect.

            There are simply some awesome lease deals out there. The problem is, they are rarely on the car you actually want. If you are willing to follow the deals rather than your desire, leasing is a great way to go. I always look for highly rated, well regarded, technically proficient vehicles that are just unloved by the buying public. But your deal is pretty exceptional and goes fairly far beyond what I would consider a “good” deal. I just try and shoot for the 1%/month of msrp or better.

          • 0 avatar
            thegamper

            And by the way, Lambda is a really good platform and the 3.6 is more than ample. I leased an Enclave for the wife. It drives a lot smaller than it is for sure. No complaints. Except now maybe my monthly payment lol.

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            > There are simply some awesome lease deals out there.

            YES! I have seen deals where the company PAYS YOU!!!!

            I kid you not!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Buy now, pay later! Everyone approved! Bring your trade!

    • 0 avatar
      zip94513

      I too considered a CUV before buying my 2016 Fusion. The additional CUV sticker price wasn’t worth it, so instead of trading in my 4Runner, I decided to keep it and just add a car to the stable. No regrets.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The new 2016 Malibu is selling well ahead of it’s 2015 levels so far for the year so one month of lower sales is not much to go by. I must have seen at least 50 of them on a day trip to the Catskill region from the Upstate, NY area. Not sure where the revamped Fusion or Optima are for sales but spotting one of those is considerably more rare. it will be interesting to see year end sales for each of these nameplates.

  • avatar
    slance66

    People want windows that aren’t just gun-slit sized. People want a little ground clearance/ride height and AWD. That’s what people are looking for, and mostly these cars aren’t giving it to them.

    I can’t stand sitting in any car where the window sill is anywhere close to shoulder height. I’d rather it was closer to my elbow.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      “I can’t stand sitting in any car where the window sill is anywhere close to shoulder height. I’d rather it was closer to my elbow.”

      That may actually be a regulatory thing. The higher sills give you better side impact protection, and I’ve actually gotten quite comfortable with them to the point that I actually prefer them. With the prevalence of rearview cameras, backup sensors, cross-traffic alert systems, blind spot monitoring, etc it’s pretty easy to get by with slightly smaller windows.

      • 0 avatar
        Old Man Pants (nee Kenmore)

        These ultra-portable heart-lung machines are swell to the point where I actually prefer hauling a little tech with me instead of relying on the capabilities I was born with.

        The tubes and wires just become part of you; you never even notice them after a while. And I can just keep on eating and bloating, eating and bloating, confident that the technology will adjust for me.

  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    “The Mazda 6, chronically unsuccessful and now particularly rare, fell 18 percent to 2,924 sales in October, only 81 sales ahead of the dying Chrysler. Ranked 11th in the category in year-to-date volume, Mazda has lost nearly 12,000 Mazda 6 sales already this year.”

    While I don’t dispute the general trend, Mazda could absolutely reverse some of their losses on the 6 if they:

    A) Added more soundproofing to cut down on road noise. I test drove a 2017 last week and was shocked at how noisy it was for a $35k car. And supposedly they added more soundproofing for 2017!

    B) Put in an engine with more power. It wouldn’t take 300HP to make the Mazda6 more attractive, even 240HP (a 33% increase) would be more than acceptable. For a car that looks so good and handles so well, it’s not even remotely quick.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    A combined loss of 7% for Camcord is only 3.5% apiece. Really dying.

    What’s more accurate is the segment is shrinking, but the shrinkage is more dramatic among the rivals, all of whom have submitted compromised product.

    Success:

    Reliable.
    Resale.
    Space for all passengers.
    Relative comfort.
    Sightlines.
    Brand trust/positive perception.

    Failure:

    Giant blind spots
    Terrible styling.
    Giant wheels and tight suspensions.
    Limited passenger space.
    Off brands.
    Unreliable.
    Unpopular.
    Subprime special.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Did you miss the last sentence?

      And the second?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “At the top of the heap, with a new Toyota Camry due shortly and a new Honda Accord not far off, either, sales of America’s two best-selling midsize cars are down 7 percent so far this year.”

        Sales of both Accord *and* Camry are down seven percent this year… or did you mean *each* model is down 7% YoY?

        “All of their rivals, combined, are down 14 percent.”

        Everything != Accord or Camry is down 14% in total. This is because those models suck for various cited reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      No, if they lost 7% together, that’s the same as each one losing 7%.

      If I gave you a 7% discount on buying two $50 jackets, that is 7% of $100, so it’s $7. The discount for each jacket is $3.50. But $3.50 is not a percentage of the total $100, it’s a percentage of the $50 unit price. 3.50 / 50 = 7%.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    SAVE THE SEDANS!

    This deathwatch has me trying to picture a world with only subcompact, compact, and full size sedans. Honestly it doesn’t frighten me but that’s because I have so much love for full size.

  • avatar
    koreancowboy

    I prefer driving a car to a CUV, but for my daily commute on Dallas’ (terrible) roads, I’ll keep truckin’ in my 2003 RAV4L that can also wade through some flood zones…as I found out this morning.

    Also, not surprised that people are flocking to CUVs. They’re far more practical that a four-door.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Probably it’s not a coincidence that today’s crossovers and their ilk have similar dimensions such as clearance, seating position, cargo capacity, headroom, outward visibility etc. as cars from the 50’s.

    But I also agree that the popularity of goofy wasteful gigantic pickups, not to mention gigantic minivans, is driving an arms war.

    • 0 avatar
      Old Man Pants (nee Kenmore)

      Love your first sentence; I’d only add “early” to “50’s”.

      Like even rap will die, so has longer-lower-wider. They’re both inimical to human health and happiness.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Tim – Could there be a slight error in the 200’s numbers?

    I see ~13658 *new* 200’s available today, which doesn’t fit with the 20k pre-October number you mentioned, plus October sales. It’s this inventory number I’m asking about.

    If I apply the average sales rate for 2016, I come up with a 2.6 month supply as of today, or roughly 79 days. Using the most recent sales rate, it works out to ~144 days. I’m not sure how you choose to calculate that, but given the 200’s demise, it’s probably at least 100 days.

    Thanks for the ongoing analysis, and keep up the great work. This is one of my favorite columns at TTAC.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Yes, you drive down new-car-dealer row, and you have to wonder what percentage of auto production is sitting on dealer lots, whether new or used….

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      On my way to Culpeper, Virginia today, I passed a Fiat dealer with at least a dozen ‘new’ 200s in inventory. They constituted something approaching 20% of their new vehicle inventory, or at least of what was visible from 29 North. Ouch.

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