Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #5: October 2016 Sales Plunge 20 Percent, Most Cars Down By Double Digits

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
midsize sedan deathwatch 5 october 2016 sales plunge 20 percent most cars down by

This 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.

Compared 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.

Not 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.

Join the conversation
5 of 38 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Nov 08, 2016

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Nov 08, 2016

      @Timothy Cain Thanks for the explanation. That's quite a disparity.

  • Fincar1 Fincar1 on Nov 08, 2016

    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....

    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Nov 08, 2016

      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.

  • Dusterdude @SCE to AUX , agree CEO pay would equate to a nominal amount if split amongst all UAW members . My point was optics are bad , both total compensation and % increases . IE for example if Mary Barra was paid $10 million including merit bonuses , is that really underpaid ?
  • ToolGuy "At risk of oversimplification, a heat pump takes ambient air, compresses it, and then uses the condenser’s heat to warm up the air it just grabbed from outside."• This description seems fairly dramatically wrong to me.
  • SCE to AUX The UAW may win the battle, but it will lose the war.The mfrs will never agree to job protections, and production outsourcing will match any pay increases won by the union.With most US market cars not produced by Detroit, how many people really care about this strike?
  • El scotto My iPhone gets too hot while using the wireless charging in my BMW. One more line on why someone is a dumbazz list?
  • Buickman yeah, get Ron Fellows each time I get a Vette. screw Caddy.