By on December 27, 2016

2016 Volvo XC90, Image: Volvo

We already know what vehicles Americans love, and most of them are trucks. It’s expected that annual Ford F-Series sales will be astronomical, but will come in just shy of a million units. It’s as boring as it is patriotic and tells us nothing of the future; we already know the United States will keep buying trucks. An underdog tale is always much more interesting. So what are the less popular vehicles we’ve perpetually ignored that are suddenly beginning to worm their way into our hearts?

Bloomberg compiled sales data through this November to see which models posted the biggest swells in demand and which models have been cut the deepest by America’s changing tastes. While it is impossible to say with certainty which are a flash in the pan sensation, a genuine comeback or marketing blunder, the vehicles on this list are all pieces in the puzzle that shows us what the automotive industry should look like in the near future. 

The Winners

Infiniti’s QX50 isn’t exactly a cherished American icon on par with the Ford Mustang, but it did more than double its sales in 2016. The leap is, no doubt, helped by the United States’ blossoming obsession with midsize crossovers and Infiniti’s poor sales history with the QX50. Last year’s 5,468 units was a substantial increase from 2014 thanks to an end-of-year boom. Meanwhile, 2016 is already in for 14,947 and December isn’t even over.

While it’s a lot easier to double sales when they started so low, this is still an achievement for Nissan’s muddled premium brand. Infiniti fielded a much improved vehicle in a growing segment and managed to give it comparable, or superior, performance numbers at a lower price than its direct competition.

For Bloomberg it was a similar story for the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. However, as the GLE only replaced the M-Class in the middle of 2015 and sales data is incomplete, I’m not about to give it the same level of praise. Still, it should be said that the GLE picked up where the M-Class left off and looks to be closing the gap as C-Class sedan sales begin to dwindle.

Falling from automotive grace in 2008, Volvo has managed to bring itself back from the brink and return sales numbers of the XC90 to the highest they’ve been in over a decade. With annual sales not even breaking 10,000 units just a few years ago, the big Swede was entirely redesigned and will absolutely surpass 30,000 sales this year — up from 12,777 in 2015.

Thankfully, it wasn’t just SUVs getting fresh love from the United States. The Audi TT saw its sales drop sharply in the early 2000s. Any year where Germany sold more than 1,500 was a big deal. The last two years were particularly lousy, but the third-generation TT seems to have turned a corner, selling 2,792 sport coupes before December and possibly heralding a resurgence.

The Losers

Bloomberg claimed that the Honda Fit took a big hit this year. While that’s debatable, Honda certainly isn’t seeing an upsurge in subcompact sales. However, we can’t blame the car. The Fit continues to offer a composed ride, versatility, and efficiency at a bargain price. The problem is that nobody seems to be quite so interested in an exceptionally useful small car anymore.

They also aren’t as interested in premium luxury vehicles that sit too close to the pavement. BMW’s 6 Series looks as if it will be taking a bath this year. Further down the luxury pricing scale, Kia’s K900 is about as desirable as hot garbage. Korea probably won’t see even a full thousand make it to North American roads by the end of the year.

Fiat’s 500L was the only crossover to make the list of untouchables. Even though everyone who knows about cars has faulted it for reliability issues and subpar equipment, the general populace seems more concerned with its controversial looks. Fiat only placed 3,016 500Ls into American hands so far this year. That’s down from 7,863 in 2015 and 12,413 in 2014. Meanwhile, the mechanically terrible similar Jeep Renegade has already sold 94,561 units through November.

[Image: Volvo]

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50 Comments on “2016 Models: What Vehicles Tanked, or Reached New Heights?...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    not surprised about Volvo, the XC90 is *really* nice.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    I for one welcome the return of square-ish Volvo wagons.

    If it’s not a false flag op by VW.

  • avatar
    TTCat

    As huge a supporter of the TT as I am (been daily driving them over 16 years now), at 2792 units, I would hardly call that a resurgence – the pace would still have to pick up another 300% to even get close to its heyday…

    I would have bought a new one to replace my current 130K mile Quattro coupe, but Audi didn’t bring the stick to North America…

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      “Audi didn’t bring the stick to North America…”

      Why does that not surprise me? A small sporty car, nahh, nobody wants a manual in one of those.

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      I’m starting to think that I should have kept my ’01 TT (quattro coupe, manual) for its rarity now! With its blue leather interior, I have never seen another one just like it. In the end, though, I prefer driving my A5 (quattro, manual), as it has about 85 more horsepower. The extra 1.7 seconds the TT took to reach 60 really annoyed me. Of course, if I had been able to get the TT with the upgraded engine, that would have worked too, but it was not available when the car first came out.

      • 0 avatar
        TTCat

        I may have to start looking at the A5/S5 duo when the time comes since Audi does continue to offer the manual for 2017 anyway – now trying to actually find one will be a bit of a trick…

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Kia should field a cheaper full size RWD sedan, something more in line with the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger.

    Nobody considering a new, larger BMW would go for the Kia instead. Its not that all BMW buyers are badge snobs, although that has a lot to do with it.

    Used, that’s a different story, but you have to sell or lease new in order to have it become used, lol.

    People considering a Charger would (IMO) consider a comparable Kia.

    Decontent it (and with that, a price cut), give it a name and discontinue its in-house compeditor (Cadenza), or let it bid North America farewell.

    Its just too much car to share floor space in a dealership that people come to for (getting ripped off on? Shout out to Orlando Kia West!) a Soul.

    Hey, they could try an upmarket Soul. Call it the Seoul Edition. Wood, leather, chrome/glossy surfaces, sound insulation leftover from Amanti/Opirus production. Make it resemble a sophisticated high-end hotel. Retirees would love it. Buick dealer would hate it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “Kia should field a cheaper full size RWD sedan, something more in line with the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger.”

      That’s a tiny and rapidly shrinking segment, and wouldn’t do anything to improve Kia’s low-buck image. The K900 was also in a tiny and shrinking segment, but at least it might have had some positive image effect, had it been any good.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Yeah, I realize sedans are falling, and full size especially.

        But, that’s why consolidating their full size offering into one mass-market RWD unit would at least do more to get them out of the hole they’ve dug with both cars up until now.

        I contend that the Charger is an aspirational car. Its probably the only reason a few people stumble upon the Dart and Journey.

        A nicely-styled RWD mainstream Kia could do the same, and since they actually do have a competitive small car and crossover lineup, it wouldn’t go to waste if the people elected to get something different.

        I hesitate to use that all-caps word we all know, but performance versions couldn’t hurt either.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Much like the Chevrolet SS (although for different reasons), I don’t think Kia legitimately has any aspirations of the K900 actually *selling*. A) people have a problem with spending $50K or $60K on a Kia product, and B) it very obviously pales in comparison to any of the mainstay full-sizers, and even new ones like the Cadillac CT6 and the transverse-engined Lincoln Continental and Volvo S90. Hell, I’d buy a *new* Acura RLX first. It’s a product that works well for domestic sales in South Korea, but I think Kia brought it over as a minimum-effort product, to get whatever good press they could from it.

      That said, it probably is too expensive to produce at Charger prices. Maybe they’ll field a stronger competitor in the future; maybe they’ll just let Hyundai’s Genesis brand handle the high-end cars and focus on a RWD sedan that actually *does* sell in the $30K – $40K range. It sounds like the upcoming Kia GT is supposed to be exactly that.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Kia put the K900 off to the back of their display at the LA Auto Show. It’s a big, nice car, but people who buy big nice cars aren’t going to buy a Kia – at least not yet.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I’m a big Kia fan, and, theoretically, I’d be the exact person to buy a big luxury Kia at some point. The K900 is well-built, has class-competitive materials and features, and has a design that (while somewhat derivative) is sleek and pleasing.

          However, the way it drives completely ruins the proposition for me. The suspension has no idea what to do if you encounter a pothole, and any effort to, say, go around a bend, is met with whining and body-roll. It drives like an old 60s Detroit land-yacht, which is not what I want in a car of that class. Better can be had for your money.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I think they brought the K900 to the states *Solely* for the Kia dealers themselves. They needed a car for them to drive around in on their dealer plate. Most of the ones I know drove used luxury cars and not a KIA!

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m a Charger owner and I’d have zero problem with buying a new RWD Kia sedan.

      In fact, I was *extremely* excited for the upcoming Kia GT until everyone told me it was going to be more 340i and less Impala SS.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The K900 is never going to be a big seller, but going forward, it will be helped by a no. of factors…

      1. The addition of the midsize GT/K800 to slot underneath the K900, much like what the Genesis/G80 has done; a higher volume midsize sedan introduces more buyers to the luxury offerings and owners “upgrading.”

      2. The next gen model which should be a major step up…

      a. Just the addition of AWD will help.
      b. Better interior
      c. Better mix of handling/ride
      d. More striking sheetmetal
      e. Addition of the TTV6

      Still won’t be a big seller, but wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up outselling something like the XJ.

      Kia building a Chrysler 300 competitor makes zero sense as the K900 is primarily for the Korean market where there is a sizeable market for full-size luxury sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I agree with your last point, but if they wanted to move any in USDM it would behoove them to cheapen things up a little and then drop the price. But as you point out this is a SKDM model so any other additional units sold anywhere is just a plus. Kinda like Toyota 86, why spend hundreds of millions to refactor for USDM if you’re just trying to maximize delivered units of a foreign market model?

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      The biggest problem with the K900 is the same problem that every Kia has: The trashiest, most off-putting dealer network in the industry.

      At various times over the last two years I’ve thought about getting an Optima, a Sportage and even a loaded Soul. A big part of why I didn’t pull the trigger is that thought of dealing with a Kia franchise for sales and service. The product has improved exponentially over the last decade, but the dealers still employ the same tactics used to unload Sephias on credit criminals in 1995.

      I’m pretty sure they still run radio ads screaming “We want to see ya…in a Kia!”

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Maybe the TT’s upsurge is because its the compact SUV of sport cars? Certainly not because it’s that new or exciting. Or maybe because the Cayman now has 4 cyl and is priced into the stratosphere. Not sure why one wouldn’t want to buy the 2 series instead.

    • 0 avatar
      TTCat

      For those of us who live in places where Winter visits and like to be able to actually carry something in a car besides ourselves, the TT might actually be the “compact CUV of sports cars” – not a bad thing at all really…

      I went and drove a 2 – it didn’t do a thing for me, but “different strokes…” right?

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    The Renegade is more closely related to the 500X than it is the 500L. THe 500L is part of the same platform family, but is the only one of it’s specific platform type (Small Wide LWB non-4×4) to make it to the US. And it should go back where it came from too. Maybe they should re-facia it as a Chrysler…the little brother to the Pacifica…the Atlantica?

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Same $hit, different sacks

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Sad Fiat can’t make a decent car, even when its a popular format with a popular name.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Fred,

        You are confusing the 500L (small wagon) with the 500X. The L’s sales are tanking, and the small wagon segment as a whole barely exists. The 500X is doing better in the crossover segment.

        Of course, a big part of the problem is that Fiat has 3 cars named 500-something, only one of which looks good (the original 500), and that one is too small to be anything other than a niche product in the US.

        That being said, the Abarth is the finest cheap sports car on the market. Not an all-rounder by any means, but way sharper than anything else.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          I think the biggest problem with Fiat is that dealers are non-existent. I live inside the DC Beltway and the nearest Fiat dealer is a good 45 minutes away. Same with Mini. You really have to want those cars to go that far out of your way.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            There’s a Fiat / Alfa Romeo studio right here on the main boulevard of Edmond, OK (which is, statistically, part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and not that far out of most people’s way). It’s right next to a popular Hyundai dealership, and the only BMW / MINI dealership in the area. It’s right down the street from Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, Nissan, Toyota, Infiniti, Acura, Cadillac, Porsche, Audi, Land Rover, and CarMax… So it’s not like it’s remote. However, the Fiat dealership still doesn’t sell very many new cars, but does brisk business selling pre-owned ones. I think Fiat’s woes are primarily down to having undesirable products. It’s a niche brand selling subcompact cars, and right now, subcompact cars are not hot-ticket items. Maybe sales will pick up once gas prices skyrocket and people start hypermiling again.

            And speaking of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in general, I saw one of those new Maserati SUVs the other day. Yuck. I’m not even an SUV-hater, but that thing is hid-e-ous.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Kyree is right. Fiat’s biggest problem is product. They have the 500, 500L, 500X, the Fiata, and in some cases whatever Alfa sells. None of those products are in demand.

          • 0 avatar

            The biggest problem with FIAT is that the product is garbage, has no resonance, and has zero resale value.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Naah, the 500X is actually a decent product. It’s a nice little SUV. But you can’t find it anywhere because there’s no dealers. However, per dealer, they’re selling as many of them as each jeep dealer is selling Renegades.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            Bosses wife liked her 500L, but within the last month it’s broken down twice. Now they are looking for a replacement. Fiat always ranks low in reliability surveys. So even those who like them are dis-enfranchised.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “The biggest problem with FIAT is that the product is garbage”

            That’s gold Jerry.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            I didn’t mean to imply that the product doesn’t suck. But there’s no reason the 500x shouldn’t be moving units when the Renegade is such a hit. I think the 500x is the better looking of the two, but that doesn’t matter if you can buy one anywhere.

            Meanwhile, the nearest (but still distant) place to buy a Fiat is sharing space with a Maserati dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaMaximaCulpa

        Aaaah the FIAT 500, badly built retro schlock. I’ve rented one in Italy that was like a 1.0 NA with an automatic, I was overtaken by lorries going up hill on the autostrada (remember that European trucks has a speed governor limiting the maximum speed to 90 or 100 km/h), not fun at all. A company I used to work at had one for promotional purposes, that thing is beaten to the ground at about 20000 miles even though it’s a single user car. Absolutely the worst car on sale today. The 500X and L makes a used mid 90’s Peugeot feel like premium fair, the “new car smell” reminds me of a combination of bleach, diesel fuel and puke, and the styling is pure retro garbage.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          My ex’s roommate had a couple of 500s that he used for business purposes. At 88,000 miles, last I saw them, they looked as clapped-out as your average 90s GM car.

          • 0 avatar
            MeaMaximaCulpa

            The one the company had/has lost its AC, the speedometer failed then the whole instrument cluster failed, the seatback adjustment failed because the plastic adjustment nob broke and a spare wasn’t available, when it was in for a service the dealer didn’t replace the disk or notify The company/driver that the disks needed replacement so the brakes almost failed on day; just to name a few highlights. It’s also the loudest car you can buy new. Absolute garbage.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    Subcompacts have a hero in the Nissan Versa. Sure, it’s not exciting or high performance but Nissan puts a lot of stock in their lower line cars and with it being BY FAR the best seller in the subcompact segment, it deserves at least a little applause.

    I just picked up a ’17 Versa sedan (5-speed) and I love the damn thing!

  • avatar
    Joss

    CR doesn’t like Nissan, neither do half of American buyers. Didn’t they getjust lumped close to bottom with Fiat?

    I’m wheel bored. The only thing that gives me a boner right now is a Japanese ambulance with speech synthesis. I love that big headboard of LED above the shield and the repetitive, synthetic female voice.

  • avatar
    DearS

    KiaHyundai would obviously be better served by a luxury SUV in the U.S. then a sedan.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I do recall a certain Australian stating that aluminum pickup bodies would be a disaster for a certain company.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Better an aluminum body F-150 than an aluminum Cadillac with mixed metal than only a handful of dealers can do major body work to.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      The F150 aluminum is not nearly the problem that the CT6 aluminium, adhesive and exotic composite mix is, as that combination on the CT6 is incorporated into the actual chassis/platform of the CT6, meaning one good collision (maybe even a relatively minor one), and there’s a good chance the CT6 will never be made able to drive properly and true again, no matter how much money and repair effort is spent in it at the collision shop (certified or not).

      #DareGreatly

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I wouldn’t say the CT6 is a problem. It’s not unlike the aluminum Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, and GM’s own Corvette (which has composite body panels atop an aluminum spaceframe). And BMW seems to have used quite a bit of carbon fiber in the new 7-Series. So it’s normal for the category in which Cadillac is trying to compete (key word “trying”).

        People who drive luxury flagship cars are used to pricey repairs. However, the F-150, which is as much a workhorse as it is a family car or a luxury cruiser cannot have astronomical costs of ownership, so I’d argue that it *should* be more price-sensitive toward repairs than a comparatively low-volume Cadillac sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Alex, I’ll take write offs for 50,000!

  • avatar

    Not a huge surprise about the Honda Fit. The plant in Mexico has focused on HR-V production instead

    But I don’t understand the praise that the press has for the Fit. I owned a 2015, current generation Fit for 18 months and it was a miserable experience. Granted, I was impressed with its versatility and fuel economy. But overall, the car was an unrefined penalty box.

    The road and engine noise were relentless, the short gearing of the manual transmission made the car feel sluggish, the front seats lacked legroom, and the quality was horrendous. It ended up having 10 unexpected repairs done due to quality defects in that time.

    Honestly, it doesn’t drive any better than a Mitsubishi Mirage (and I’ve rented plenty of those), and a Sonic or Versa are a much more solid and pleasant little cars (I now own a Sonic and the difference is night and day). I’m glad to see that the Fit isn’t doing well and that consumers maybe see its many shortcomings


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