By on January 10, 2017

2017 Chrysler 200S AWD - Image: FCAAs recently as 2014, U.S. sales of midsize cars were on the rise, albeit marginally. As recently as 2015, U.S. sales of midsize cars were shrinking only modestly, falling less than 2 percent compared with 2014.

In 2016, however, U.S. sales of midsize cars decreased by more than 250,000 units — an 11-percent drop that exceeded the rate of decline witnessed elsewhere in the car market.


This is the seventh 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.


The midsize sedan segment continues to be a hugely consequential part of the car market and the overall new vehicle market, but the segment has greatly contracted over the last few years — including the demise of yet another nameplate in 2016.

That makes 2017 the best time to replace the 15-time best-seller with an all-new model.

Midsize cars account for nearly one-third of all new car sales and more than one-in-ten new vehicle sales. While TTAC’s deathwatch looks ahead to the continued disappearance of poor performers, by no means do we anticipate the death of the segment. Just as America’s minivan segment gradually gave way to the success of SUVs and crossovers — losing sales and then losing competitors and then stabilizing — the midsize sedan segment is undergoing a similar sea change.

It’s a change wrought in part by the rise of compact utility vehicles. In December 2016, as Jack Baruth mentioned last week, the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 all outsold America’s best-selling cars.

There are other factors, but regardless of the reasoning, there’s no denying the results. Among America’s 11 mainstream midsize cars in 2016 – of which only 10 remain in production – only two sold more often in 2016 than in 2015.2016 Chevrolet Malibu - Image: GMOne, the Chevrolet Malibu, was an all-new model for 2016. Sales jumped 17 percent to 227,881 units, fifth in the segment. The Malibu’s share of the market rose by three points, year-over-year, to 11 percent in 2016.

The other, Subaru’s Legacy, benefits from standard all-wheel drive, the market’s remarkably pro-Subaru tendencies, and improved availability. Legacy sales increased 8 percent — a modest gain of 4,859 units — to 65,306 total sales in 2016. That was good enough to rank ninth in its class, ahead of the discontinued Chrysler 200 and the forgotten Mazda 6.

But at the top of the heap, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Ford Fusion — a quartet that owns more than 62 percent of the segment — combined to lose 111,417 sales. Sales of the top-ranked Camry, America’s overall best-selling car in 15 consecutive years, fell to a five-year low. Accord, Altima, and Fusion sales slid to a four-year low.

However, not a one of these cars is particularly new. Who killed the Camry, Mr. Baruth asked last week? In addition to the factors he mentioned, consider also old age.

The current Camry — and the Volkswagen Passat — went into production more than five years ago. The current iterations of the Accord, Altima, and Fusion all went into production in 2012. So did the Mazda 6.U.S. midsize car sales chart 2012-2016 - Image: © The Truth About CarsCan new product breathe new life into a struggling category?

Probably.

Maybe.

The 2018 Toyota Camry revealed yesterday at the North American International Auto Show places greater emphasis on style while also emphasizing its carness. Making its not-an-SUV character all the more obvious is lower height.

Toyota even says that the new car’s dynamic improvements will be felt, “within the first few seconds of driving.”

Want a RAV4’s commanding view of the road? Don’t expect it here: Toyota has lowered the Camry’s hip point.

Not unwisely, Toyota is sticking with an engine formula that, for the most part, distinguishes the Camry from similarly priced compact crossovers. While many other midsize cars have given up their optional V6 engines, the three best-selling midsize cars in America still offer a V6 upgrade. That will continue in the 2018 Camry, which is expected to be a remarkably quick car when the upgraded V6 is paired with an eight-speed automatic.

But can we be so certain that an improved Camry, along with forthcoming new editions of the Accord and Altima, will turn TTAC’s midsize deathwatch into an examination of abundant life? Or will revitalized top sellers be even more likely to kill off the low-volume contenders, cars such as the Mazda 6 that are biting into progressively smaller slices of progressively smaller pies?2018_toyota_camryConsider Canada as an example, where the far more dominant compact sector was imbued with new life in 2016. The Honda Civic, now Canada’s best-selling car in 19 consecutive years, was all-new for 2016, going so far as to add a hatchback bodystyle at the end of the year. Yet Canadian sales of compact cars fell 7 percent in 2016 and the Civic actually sold less often in 2016 than it did in 2015, at the end of the previous generation’s lifecycle.

Canada, of course, isn’t wholly analogous. Canadians buy even more SUVs, crossovers, and pickup trucks (and far more minivans), per capita. The fact that the natural comparison for America’s midsize market is Canada’s compact market makes that all the more clear.

But concerns are justified. If a new Camry doesn’t succeed with big numbers, how can we expect its ankle-biting alternatives to do so? And if they don’t succeed, choices becomes limited. And when choice is limited, we all suffer.

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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122 Comments on “Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #7: America Lost More Than 250,000 Midsize Car Sales In 2016...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m officially calling for a deathwatch on this deathwatch series…this drum’s been beaten too many times.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I counter your deathwatch, with a deathwatch of your deathwatch.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      You beat me to it.

    • 0 avatar

      Three things:

      – Mr. Farago is gone. Come up with something original than Deathwatch. Mid-size cars may contract, but they’ll be around. Same with minivans.

      – Gas prices. They hit the roof, and everyone will be scrambling for fuel-efficient 4cyl sedans and desperate to get out of their CUVs/SUVs/pickups. People never learn.

      – Design. A good one that breaks the mold, as suggested by Lorenzo with a ’55 Chevy redo, is very much needed is this stale segment. That will draw attention. These jellybeans all look the same.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Design is actually what’s killing the sedans. As buyer crave MORE utility, the latest fastback designs are giving buyer less utility than ever – worse visibility, small trunk openings, reduced rear headroom. It’s no wonder the current crop of sedans is losing sales.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I think design is a big factor also.

          Fussy lines, overwrought designs, high beltlines because designers will it and side impact regulations. Narrow greenhouses are hampered even further by bulging A and C pillars to meet rollover standards.

          Sloping roofs to give a coupe look (instead of just offering a coupe) make back seats cramped for normal adults, and as you noted narrow trunk openings, hinges, and in some cases a lack of fully folding seats for structural rigidity hurt usability.

          When gas prices spiked and I landed on a W-Body Grand Prix as my replacement for my pickup, I chose the Grand Prix in part because of the folding rear seats and folding passenger seat. I could fit my kayak in there and close the trunk. Utility and 30 MPG highway. The back seat was accommodating kidlets so I could live with the sloping roof.

          The only midsizer I could live in of the current offerings today is the Accord.

          The Camry isn’t sporting enough and has suffered from the decontenting bean counters.

          The Malibu has the MPG chops in hybrid format, but the back seat remains a torture chamber.

          I love the Ford Fusion – as a rental car that i don’t have to live with every day.

          The 200 – oh Lord my credit isn’t bad.

          Altima – see comment about my credit.

          Mazda6 – I need to look actually – Mazda we build fantastic cars no one buys.

          Sonata – took a HUGE step backwards

          Optima – I don’t get it. I had one as a rental, admitted a pretty stripped model and I was very unimpressed. I don’t understand the hype at all.

          Legacy – my experience with Subarus spanning 3 decades has been consistent – consistently bad. The wife’s Forester is going to be the last one in our driveway

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “The Camry isn’t sporting enough and has suffered from the decontenting bean counters”

            Outside the manual transmission, the Accord is no different. I’ve mentioned this before but I don’t see how the press and forum members are seeing such a distinction between the interior quality and driving dynamics of the Accord and SE Camry.

            I fully agree about the poor glass space, sloping rooflines, and narrow trunk openings ruining the utility of many midsizers.

          • 0 avatar
            OldManPants

            “The Camry isn’t sporting enough”

            Only on a car blog can you see otherwise high-functioning people say goofballs like this.

            As if “sporting” *ever* meant bread & butter, keep-the-model-going sales numbers.

          • 0 avatar
            EMedPA

            Let me pile on. A sedan with a mail slot trunk opening is useless. CUV’s may not be cool, but you fit actual cargo in the back of one without a crowbar.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Passat S or SE?

            The 2.5L ones were even okay on reliability.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Well spoken ApaG, I agree that todays toy-ish design play a role in the mid-sizers decline.

            I am impressed that.your Grand Prix could fit so much cargo since it kinda had “coupe styling”. My experience was limited to headroom issues in the back (and the sport model sitting too low), good cars otherwise.

            As slopey as modern cars are they’d benefit from “trunk hatches”, like what Chrysler used on the Shadow. Instead we get dinky AMC Gremlin mail-slots.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            @Ryoku75

            My understanding on why the 5-door died has to do with NVH issues. The trunk makes things quieter and more rigid.

            I came ‘ ‘ <– that close to buying a Mazda6 5-door over the Grand Prix. However you could only get the 4-cylinder manual stripped, not equipped, and it became a deal breaker for me. The V6 of that era was just awful, so glad I didn't compromise.

            No regrets on the Grand Prix, had the G8 not come along and GM gone bankrupt, I might still be pounding miles into it.

          • 0 avatar
            Counterpoint

            With so many similar competitors scrabbling over a shrinking market the smart move would be to differentiate and try to dominate a profitable niche even if that reduces volume. A smart manufacturer would offer a “sport utility sedan” with AWD, increased ground clearance, more rear-seat headroom, and a large trunk opening. Think Subaru Outback without the cargo area. It would look blocky and a lot of people would hate it, but enough would love it and be willing to pay a premium. I bet it would sell more than the Mazda 6.

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        Gas can do what it may. I like my pickup. I’ll give up other luxuries first.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Yes. I’ll sit in the dark and eat store brand Easy Mac before I give up displacement.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “Yes. I’ll sit in the dark and eat store brand Easy Mac before I give up displacement.”

            Haha! Yup, there ain’t no replacement for displacement.

            And no finer mill than the 350cubic inch/5.7 liter all-aluminum DOHC 32-valve V8 from Toyota, even in its 4.6-liter iteration for the LS460.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          I don’t know a single person that unloaded their truck when gas prices spiked. I had a freaking Land Cruiser back then. I griped and pumped 4 dollar a gallon gas into it frequently but didn’t consider replacing it until it spit the front diff out. Then I replaced it with a truck. Honestly if it got bad again I’d ditch my cell phone before the truck.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I don’t know anyone that dumped their trucks, but people must not have been buying new ones because the incentives at the time were insane.

          • 0 avatar
            Frylock350

            When gas was $4.40 I just continued to pump $2.25 E-85 into my truck.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Frylock

            When did this happen? I have never seen E85 being half of 90% gas, even back in 07 prior to the spike it was only about 50 cents cheaper.

          • 0 avatar
            rocketrodeo

            In parts of the midwest, especially the states where fuel ethanol is produced, E85 rarely exceeded $2.00 when gas prices spiked. My E85 capable truck burns about a third more of it than gasoline, though.

      • 0 avatar

        I have two four-cylinder CUVs. I’ll still be good when people are desperately trying to offload their oversized SUVs and trucks LOL

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Deathwatch as a concept is fine. It just needs to be applied where it fits best: FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      Indeed even in the UK, where like the US crossover / SUV sales are on the rise and midsize sedans are being axed, the best selling non-premium (ie. ignore the company car spec Merc C class which makes the top 10) models are actually 5 door fastback hatchbacks – Ford Mondeo (Fusion) which is not offered as a 4 door, Vauxhall Insignia (Buick Regal) and the Skoda Octavia (a midsize sedan shaped fastback hatch based on the VW Golf, and beloved by fleets and taxi drivers).

      I myself am after a new family car (as in new family and a ‘new’ used car…), do not like crossovers, a friend with a family recommended a 5 door hatch over a regular 4 door sedan – he said the small opening on his old Passat was a hindrance to getting prams in and out. A 5 door SEAT Toledo caught my eye, shaped like a sedan (based on a Chinese market VW sedan) but with a huge liftback trunk.

  • avatar

    Naive question – what is making the Altima sell 4% better than Accord / Slightly better than Fusion?

    (I find those two to be my picks in midsize sedan market right now)

    • 0 avatar

      Discounts and fleet sales.

      They sell them buggers cheap, and no one has the time to realize how much more poorly built and designed they are until 12 months after when everything rattles and they just can’t put up with the moaning CVT anymore.

      I actively refuse Altimas if Avis tries to stick me with one.

      • 0 avatar
        Corollaman

        I recently went to Avis and took a Fiesta over an Altima, that is how much I dread driving that thing.

      • 0 avatar

        As I expected; wasn’t hoping for my ideas to be valid, but glad to see so.

        I always end up with Elantras when doing rental. We call them the “Hyundai Fart” due to caring more about farts (Which is an entirely negative care level) than the car.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        “no one has the time to realize how much more poorly built and designed they are until 12 months after when everything rattles and they just can’t put up with the moaning CVT anymore.”

        THIS! So much this.

        And, its a Nissan, so its reliable! Until the CVT $h¡Гs the bed. I am seeing 10 (+/-) year old Altimas with not many miles as a “mechanic special” so often, they’re nearly as common as Optima/Sonatas with knocking 4 cylinders.

        Usually, the only Fusions or Accords I see that cheap have had the ever-loving life wrung out of them: high miles, significant dents/scrapes and a nasty interior.

        First gen Fusions with the 5AT (4 cylinder only) are popping up every so often with trans issues, and of course a few V-6 Accords for the same reason. But, they’re not nearly as common as knocking H/K’s or snapped-rubber-band Altimas.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          My fiance’s sister’s bf just bought a rough looking (extensive poorly done body work) ’09 Altima with 180k miles against my strongest of recommendations to do some uber driving with. Seems to drive well at the moment, time will tell. My brother’s wife has over 175k on her ’10 Rogue and it’s treated her very well, but the driving is more or less all rural/highway and no city driving or long grades where the CVT would really heat up.

          I would say at this point that in the Nissan’s smaller-non V6 applications I wouldn’t freak out too much about the CVT. As long as some bozo doesn’t put in regular ATF, it will probably last the life of the vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            What is it with you kids and Uber driving?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Haha in my case it was strictly a fun hobby, one that I rather quickly dropped (although now that I live rather close to a bar type area, it’d be easier to partake in). In my friend’s case, he legitimately wants to make it a side gig while he’s in grad school. I tried to level with him to give him a clear picture of the economics of buying a car just to be able to drive Uber, but I think his mind was made up. I wish him the best with it.

        • 0 avatar
          namesakeone

          JohnTaurus, I feel like an idiot for asking, but “knocking H/Ks?”

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Word to the wise namesakeone, I’d just go ahead and ignore his litany of bizarre craigslist-centric “evidence.”

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Our neighbor across the street just bought a 2016 Altima SR at the end of December, his wife drives it. They got rid of a meticulous 2008 4 cylinder Accord. Haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it yet, but I was baffled since his other vehicle is a Tundra and he talked in the summer of getting a Camry. Seems like it was a deal they couldn’t refuse or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      In addition to fleet sales, Altimas are also subprime fodder (especially now that Fiasler has killed off its compact and midsize sedan lines.) In most cases, you’ll still need more than just a paycheck and a pulse to buy a Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        Speed3

        I am curious where most the FCA buyers are now going. It does look like the Malibu got a bump in market share after its redesign and around (?) the time FCA killed off the 200. Granted its a shrinking market, but the 200 still did 57K units last year, after moving about 150K in 2015.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged Miata Man

          That’s a good question. I’d have thought that HyundKia would benefit, but the sales numbers don’t support that.

          Well, unless they’re ALL moving to CUVs.

        • 0 avatar
          namesakeone

          Where are the FCA buyers going? My guess is that we haven’t found out yet; the 200 (and Dart) are still available (though out of production), at least at my local dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Naive question – what is making the Altima sell 4% better than Accord / Slightly better than Fusion?”

      The Subprime Force!

    • 0 avatar

      I rented a fully loaded Altima last February.

      Not bad, but I couldn’t see myself buying one.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’d likewise be curious to test drive a 3.5SL. Assuming poor-ish resale, that could be a really, properly quick and comfy commuter vehicle. I’d hypothesize the long term reliability would most likely be better than a 9spd Pentastar 200.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    By the time this segment of the car market has truly died and there are no more Accord and Camry and Malibu, we will be up to Deathwatch #5798236523562l. Do you think it may get a bit old before then?

    That said, yes the shift in preference for CUVs and SUVs is distinct and real and very important to the automotive industry, but this has all been discussed before. So perhaps there is a middle ground and DEATHWATCH: CAMRY GOES DOWN! could be scaled back to twice per year?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    There are no midsize four door sedans for sale. They’re all “four door coupes” with poor visibility, minimal headroom and legroom for rear seat passengers, small rear doors, and mail slot trunk openings that make the trunks useless for large, bulky cargo. If GM built a crash-worthy unibody car that looked like a modestly updated ’55 Chevy, with a modern drivetrain and brakes,it might sell. The Malibu doesn’t come close in terms of utility.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      ?

      Passat. Camry. Accord.

      Midsizers have never been more commodious.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        My fiance’s 2012 Camry is in every way roomier than my ’96 ES300, including more head room. I much prefer the way the ES looks inside and out, and especially prefer the materials it’s made with, but in terms of sheer utility, the Camry wins by a mile. Okay the Lexus 3.0L V6 idles/revs smoother and has a bit more response down low/mid range, but the 2.5L Camry accelerates just as well (if not a bit better), while getting about 10 more mpg in both city and highway driving. I’m definitely a huge fan of older Japanese cars, but where it counts, major progress has been made.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen to that, brother!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      ” If GM built a crash-worthy unibody car that looked like a modestly updated ’55 Chevy, with a modern drivetrain and brakes…”

      They already do – it’s called a Traverse.

    • 0 avatar
      alexndr333

      Lorenzo,
      It seems to me that Chevrolet already makes something of what you described. Here are the general dimensions and specs for the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan and the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox CUV – the 1955 is listed first:
      Curb Weight 3330 / 3327
      Wheelbase 115 / 107
      Length 195 / 183
      Width 74 / 72.6
      Height 60.5 / 65.4
      Fr. Track 58 / 62.2
      Rr. Track 58.8 / 62.2
      Fr. Headrm 35.8 / 40
      Rr. Headrm 35.4 / 38.5
      Fr. Legrm 43.1 / 40.9
      Rr. Ledrm 40.8 / 39.7
      Fr. Shouldr 62 / 57.2
      Rr. Shouldr 63 / 55.5
      Fr. Hiproom 62 / 54.2
      Rr. Hiproom 63 / 51.7
      (Sources: automobile-catalogue.com and gmauthority.com)

      Pretty comparable – a little longer here, a bit shorter there (remarkable about the weight, though). Now, of course, you asked for something that looked similar and I dare say that our styling tastes have moved quite a bit from the post-war three-box design of the mid-1950’s. Also, I was unable to find the seat or hip-point height of the two vehicles; my guess is that one would sit higher in the Equinox, but not by much. So, GM has produced an updated ’55 Chevy station wagon, and they sell them just fine, thank you. Just like they did sixty years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      How about a Ford Flex sedan, sort of like a Checker for the 21st century

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Ford tried that and people didn’t buy it. It was called the Ford Five Hundred.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Ford blew it with the drivetrain on the Five Hundred. CVT = Fail.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          The Five Hundred was AWFUL. The worst modern era rental car I ever had. The car was dreadful top to bottom. Gutless, one of the most uncomfortable seats I’ve ever had the displeasure to occupy, and the headlights were completely useless.

          It is the only rental car that I have picked up, and on my travels stopped at another office, and said, “sorry I just can’t do it anymore, I want to swap out.”

          I’ve picked up rentals and turned right around because of warped rotors or a Christmas tree dash – but never in mid-rent said, “I give up.”

          The Hyundai Azera I got as a replacement was head and shoulders better. The Five Hundred was awful, awful, awful.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Early Five Hundreds were gutless beasts. The renamed Five Hundred known as the 5th generation (08-09) Taurus was an excellent vehicle. The heavy refresh fixed pretty much all of the Five Hundred’s problems. Then Ford went and ruined the Taurus for the 2010 model year.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yep, the ’08 Taurus was what the Five Hundred should have been from day one.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If Ford had not been in financial trouble from Nasser, it may have been (cue “Nasser!”).

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I vastly prefer the styling of the OG Five Hundred over the ’08 Taurus restyle, but would have to agree that the 3.5L Duratec finally gave it the powertrain it deserved from the outset. For easier going drivers (as many blue haired Five Hundred drivers migrating from panthers probably were/are), the 3.0L Duratec is just fine.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        So you take a Flex (which isn’t selling) make it a sedan (which aren’t selling) and that’s somehow supposed to sell?

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I agree, and just posted the same thing before I read your comment.

  • avatar
    skor

    No surprise. Starting in the late 50s the US auto industry convinced Muricans that the tall, boxy style of car that had been in vogue since the 1930s were dowdy and old fashioned. “Lower, longer, wider.”, was the modern thing. Cars inspired by racing and sport over practicality. After 30 years of ‘lower, longer, wider, the mini-vans and SUVs appeared. Americans decided they liked the ease of access and commanding view of the road better than an ersatz oval track racer, and here we are. Notice the exterior and interior dimensions of modern mini-vans or SUVs………pretty much the same as the average early 50s American car. Round and round we go.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Lowest hanging CAFE food. CUVs are already showing the wounds of being its next victims. Then pickups and SUVs.

    There’s probably a degree of windshield rake that would serve as a metric for assessing terminality.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I wonder how may of the 250k are model 3 reservation holders?

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    “by no means do we anticipate the death of the segment.”

    So the deathwatch isn’t really a deathwatch, just a clickbait headline. I’m shocked.

    “And when choice is limited, we all suffer.”

    I don’t suffer at all because never buy cars in that segment. But even for buyers in that segment, if the market kills off uncompetitive vehicles like the 200, how does that cause anyone to “suffer”, given that there are half a dozen market leaders that are all pretty good and aren’t going anywhere, plus out of the remaining contenders there will likely be at least 2 or 3 more for the foreseeable future? Puh-lease. Suffering is when you are put on a 13 year waiting list to buy a Trabant.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Something that we overlooked. It is distinctly frowned on if you put your pet in the trunk.

    Clarkson ranked SUV’s/CUV’s/Hatches/etc on whether or not you could fit your pet dog in behind the seats. One of his more practical tests.

    Otherwise the B&B have it. Forget the petrolhead/gearhead concerns about ‘driving dynamics’, the vast majority of consumers buy based on style, convenience, reliability, perceived safety,visibility, and cost. Driving dynamics falls near the very bottom of the decision spectrum.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Everyone I know puts their dog in the back seat, not the cargo area.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @JackDenver: Therefore your friends endanger themselves, their pets and their travelling companions/family and may possibly depending upon the jurisdiction be liable to being ticketed.

        Don’t trust me on this, Cesar Milan has a blog posting on it:

        https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/travel/safe-ways-to-transport-your-dog-in-your-car

        You might of course use a dog vehicle harness but the CBC tested these and passed none of them in 2014. A dog crate in the back is still the best and safest way. Or the once ubiquitous pet screen across the back of all Volvo stationwagons.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “Everyone I know puts their dog in the back seat, not the cargo area.”

        I must not be everyone, because given a choice I’ll always put them back in the cargo area, preferably with a rubber mat back there. Keeps drool off of door cards, dog nails off of seat upholstery. In the 4Runner they have the rear hatch window to sniff out of. Win/win.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Very true. I always loved Mazdas, they handled so nicely…even though most were under-powered….the way Mazda’s handled always made me smile. Despite the good driving dynamics, Toyota…the plain white washer/dryer set of auto design…..outsold Mazda by squillions.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Driving dynamics falls near the very bottom of the decision spectrum.”

      Not for me, but point taken.

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    To me, there are two things killing the mid-size market and they’re both driven by the manufactures; swoopy styling and price.

    The race to provide an interesting look has killed the functionality of the traditional sedan, combine that with the fact that the sedan is a bad value compared to the SUV counterpart and you have a recipe for a deathwatch.

    Compare a loaded CRV to a similarly priced sedan and it’s no contest with it getting easier with each update

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      You’re not comparing apples to apples. A CR-V is built on the Civic platform. Fully loaded SUVs are pricier than comparable sedans and because they are in demand (as long as gas is cheap) the sticker prices are not just wishful thinking.

      • 0 avatar
        mtr2car1

        The CRV may be based on the Civic but it’s spaced like the Accord as rear legroom is 38.3″ vs. 38.5 for the sedan while shoulder width is .1″ smaller than the sedan.

        …and that’s the 2016 version, in every objective measurement, the CRV is the same or greater in size.

        Objectively, priced similarly, why would the average customer take the Accord over the CRV?

        • 0 avatar
          yamahog

          At comparable prices, you can get the Accord with the V6. Or compared to a base Accord, the only CRV with the same price is a used one.

          The CRV is at least 2k more expensive on the front end.

          We say that driving dynamics don’t matter (and that may be true) but most consumers are reluctant to rev out an engine, something that can merge safely without cracking 2,500. The base accord is 2.5 seconds faster to 60, people care about acceleration.

          Accord – 1 in. more head room

          Accord – Expect to get an extra 150 miles of range out of the car.

          Accord – +6 mpg in around town driving over the AWD car, +4-5 mpg in around town driving over the CRV.

          It matters because a recession is coming and people aren’t going to be able to service all their debts partially because they’re buying more car than can afford. At the limits, buying a new CRV when you can only afford a used Civic is a problem.

          • 0 avatar
            Frylock350

            Yet you can shove way more of your crap into a CRV while enjoying better legroom and better visibility.

            Both are efficient enough that the difference for the average person its a few starbucks a month to own the “cool” CRV vs a “lame” Accord.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Yamahog, I’ve made exactly the same points before. A sedan has numerous objective advantages over a similar SUV. And for some reason I got reamed for saying it. There’s some perverse desire among some on this site to condemn any dissent from their new orthodoxy that today’s CUVs have repealed the laws of physics, and that the superior acceleration, handling and fuel economy made possible by reduced frontal area and a lower center of gravity are not “advantages.” The argument given to refute me was that “CUVs sell better than sedans now, therefore you’re wrong.”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Well said Tonycd.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Tim,
    You are definitely right in your observations that changing tastes are impacting the sales of all cars. However, the word “deathwatch” implies that the market will be no more or at least a niche market in the near future. I doubt that will be the case and, given the amount of money OEMs are investing in new platforms, carmakers don’t seem to share this view either.

  • avatar

    Sedan sales are replaced by “utility” sales and every manufacturer has several utility models to replace sedans. Nobody is actually losing sales, they are simply replaced by utilities.

    Utilities are “boxy” and all the new sedans are lower – wider and often a little longer too.

    Do you want a box or do you want a sleek sedan? At present the trend is for boxes. You could say that utilities are the replacement for the station wagons http://www.thestrada.net/10/2016/1/7/what-happened-to-station-wagons.html at some point the trend will revert back to sedans or it might just continue with utilities.

    Manufacturers will continue with sedans to edge all the market potential that is available.

    New sedans that capture the imagination (Malibu as an example) increase in sales. The new Camry will also sell more once its available.

    7 sedan + 3 utilities = 10 7 utilities + 3 sedans = 10

    Utilities are the current fast fashion favorites with consumers http://www.thestrada.net/10/2016/11/16/auto-fashion-business.html

    For most manufacturers 20% of the models generate close to 80% of the sales. Every manufacturer needs to cover every aspect of the market.

    • 0 avatar

      “Every manufacturer needs to cover every aspect of the market.”

      No, not really.

      A handful of marques: Chevy, Ford, Toyota & Honda pretty much cover it – need to cover every or nearly every aspect of the market.

      Which these four pretty much do and do well.

      The rest should stick to the segments they do best.

      Yes I left FCA out, deliberately. They too will have to concentrate on what they do best which is Jeep, Ram, Hellcat and a couple other things.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “They too will have to concentrate on what they do best which is Jeep, Ram, Hellcat and a couple other things.”

        Which is great…for now. Jeep Rulz Hard! But look at what the last two economic downturns did to Jeep sales.

        http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2012/10/jeep-brand-sales-figures-usa-canada.html

        Difference was, though, if Jeeps and Ram trucks weren’t selling, Chrysler had midsized sedans and compacts to fall back on.

        Today, it’s Jeep or Die.

        Sergio Marchionne better pray that whoever buys or merges with FCA (and don’t kid yourself, that’s exactly where it’s going) does it before the next recession.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          But, FCA has more gas-friendly Jeeps than it did. And, I mean ones that are actually decent and not total garbage, unlike the previous CompASS and Patriot.

          Renegade, (new) Compass, Cherokee and a more efficient Wrangler will help them weather the next gas price surge better than when they had just the old Compass and Patriot. They did sell okay, but it’s safe to say that a majority of buyers (who weren’t credit poor or buying solely on price) looked past the Jeep name and saw that they were total garbage, then went and bought an Escape, CRV, Forester, or Rav4.

          This time, while they aren’t at the top of their class, theyre non-Wrangler/Grand Cherokee products are worth considering if one is in the market for such.

          High gas prices won’t kill CUVs, it’ll boost them. Why buy a car *and* a minivan/truck/traditional SUV when one crossover will do? Saving money by buying one vehicle instead of two can offset the 23 MPG they get with vehicle they do buy.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’m talking about recessions, not gas prices, John. And before the recession, Jeep had pretty much the same lineup they do today, plus the old Commander, and less the Cherokee: the Wrangler, the midsize CUV (Grand Cherokee), small CUVs (Compass/Patriot), and the Liberty (basically the same spot in the lineup as the current Cherokee).

            And their sales took a MURDEROUS beating in 2008-09. Down by over 50%.

            But if you want to make this about fuel economy, then fine…fuel efficient Jeep models also bit it big time during the recession.

            When recessions happen, people stop buying higher priced cars in favor of cheaper ones. All the sudden, something like an Avenger, Sebring, or Caliber looks good to a whole lot of buyers who aren’t going to pony up an extra five grand just so they can get more ride height and a hatchback.

            Difference between 2008 and now? Simple: Chrysler has ZERO in the midsize or compact segments to fall back on anymore. The Avenger, 200 and Dart are gone. Now, it’s Jeep and Ram (and minivan), or die. And the CUV/SUV/truck segments are especially sensitive to downturns.

            I’ll say it again: these guys better find a partner to merge with, or start buying cheaper cars from, or if the economy goes down, they’re fornicated.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        The problem is that the auto market is cyclical depending on the overall economy and gas prices so if you decide to specialize around the segment that you do best, for a while that may seem like a great idea until the cycle shifts and then you have no product to sell – see FCA the next time gas prices go up.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Point of consideration: Subaru’s cars, with standard AWD, get worse MPG than the cars they compete with, yet Subaru sales did not tank when high gas prices hit. Quite the opposite.

          The thing is, they offer more all-weather capability with only marginally worse MPG. FCA’s crossovers do the same, with added utility over Subaru sedans of course.

          People chose a Subaru over, say, an SUV at the time because it did get better MPG while still providing AWD capability. Now, crossovers do the same.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “added utility over Subaru sedans of course”

            bah

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Denver

            Subaru is capacity constrained and sells all the cars it can make. So they leave $ on the table in good times that they could have made if they had more factories, but when sales go down they don’t have empty billion $ factories dragging them underwater.

            Also gas mileage is relative – yes a Subaru gets a couple of mpg less than a comparable Toyota but a full sized V-8 SUV is in a different league.

            The whole gas mileage thing is mostly psychological – people have money to make payments on $35,000+ vehicles but another $20/week for gas is going to kill them?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “Point of consideration: Subaru’s cars, with standard AWD, get worse MPG than the cars they compete with, yet Subaru sales did not tank when high gas prices hit. Quite the opposite.”

            Could this have something to do with the fact that a) Subarus have always gotten decent mileage, and b) the brand doesn’t have a reputation for building excrement?

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      //Utilities are “boxy”

      Well, look who just popped out of the time machine!

      Welcome to 2017! We have so many cool things to show you from the past 20 years!

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    You guys seem to have missed the biggest factor. Jack mentioned it in his article but it’s worth mentioning again.

    Avg American human is not much taller than 20-30 years ago, but sedans have grown tremendously over that period. A modern Honda Fit is roomier inside than an Accord from the 80s. Ultimately there is an ideal interior passenger volume for sedans- probably about ~95-100 cu. ft with a roomy back seat. The closer a mainstream sedan is to that volume, the better it sells. Beyond that you get diminishing returns and a dropoff in sales. So by most metrics the Corolla class is the new Camry class. As “midsizers” continue to grow their sales will continue to fall

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Except compact cars (Corolla, Focus, etc) sales aren’t picking up the slack.

      I don’t think the car being larger is the issue, otherwise nobody would buy a crossover larger than Escape. But, they do, by the boat load.

      I do see the larger midsize sedan having an affect on the next size up. You don’t need to get an Impala when a Malibu is 95% as roomy and comfortable.

      The opposite is true with FCA, but that has nothing to do with size, it has everything to do with the fact that their large cars are the only cars they’ve built in the last decade or so that are worth a $#¡Г. Even those are hit-and-miss, like the awful 2.7L the earlier LX cars had on the low end.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      I disagree that cars are growing. While some smaller models may grow a bit; we’ve yet to make a traditionally full-sized sedan (80″ wide) The only way to replace the interior room of a B-body wagon or a Town Car is to buy a crew cab pickup. Modern cars are packaged well and some have good legroom, but they’re all narrow as hell.

    • 0 avatar
      tubacity

      “Avg American human is not much taller than 20-30 years ago” and wider and heavier. Fit too noisy.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    I have to believe that Honda’s decision to build the next Accord off the Civic architecture is a result of them also thinking that the segment is not worth spending all the money to develop a whole new platform. I am sure it costs a lot less to use an existing platform than to do an all new one.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I don’t think that’s accurate, Corollaman. I seriously doubt that Honda thought, “Well, the Civic was worth creating a platform for, and the Accord isn’t, even though we make more money on it than on the Civic. So what the hell, we’ll invest in an all-new Civic and then just fake an Accord off it.”

      Rather, I think their whole new platform was developed with the express intent it’d be shared among the Civic, CR-V and Accord. The Civic came to market first, then the CR-V, and finally the Accord comes to market in 2018.

      (As for the Pilot and MDX, I have no idea, but they’ve traditionally been on a version of the Accord platform, so maybe them too.)

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    It’s a shame that the 200 got killed off, as it was a damn good looking car and the S model with AWD and the V6 seems really nice. Not nice enough for me to plunk down my hard earned money and take the gamble with FCA reliability (or lackthereof) and resale value (or, again, lack thereof), but still nice. I suppose many others felt the same way, and that is the problem.

    In other news, the 6 is still selling better than its lowest month, November 2012, when it managed a paltry 1,204 units. December 2016 saw 3,688 units, and 2016 overall saw a total of 45,520. Down significantly from its year-high of 2004 (72,148) but up significantly from its worst year of 2012 (33,756). The Mazda6 is a niche player but the brand itself is as well, and I don’t think they’d have the capacity to crank out Camry production numbers even if for some reason the public demanded it.

    The CX-5 is selling well (for a Mazda) and sort of carrying the brand right now. I don’t foresee the 6 going anywhere since its based off of the same platform as the 3 and CX-5. Developmental costs are limited when platforms are shared – see Honda’s decision to make the upcoming Accord a slightly enlarged Civic platform.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I just checked the manufacturer websites for data on the base model of 9 mid-size sedans with auto (and CVT’s for those who don’t really consider ’em a real automatic tranny). Interestingly, the weakest engine is in the Malibu and the worst EPA mileage is Accord and Fusion. Note that I included the fading Mazda 6 for those of the B&B who are Mazda fanbois/fanatics. Also, only one vehicle is all-wheel drive and doesn’t place at the bottom as some seem to expect…

    Vehicle/hp,torque/EPA highway, city

    Malibu /163,184 / 36, 27
    Legacy /175,174 / 34, 25
    Altima /179,177 / 39, 27
    Accord /185,181 / 32, 23
    Camry /178,170 / 33, 24
    Fusion /175,175 / 32, 21
    Sonata /185,178 / 36 ,25
    Optima /185,178 / 36, 25
    Mazda 6/184,185 / 35, 29

    By power, torque (high to low)

    Accord 185,181
    Sonata 185,178
    Optima 185,178
    Mazda 6 184,185
    Altima 179,177
    Camry 178,170
    Fusion 175,175
    Legacy 175,174
    Malibu 163,184

    By EPA MPG (high to low)

    Altima 39, 27
    Malibu 36, 27
    Sonata 36 ,25
    Optima 36, 25
    Mazda 6 35, 29
    Legacy 34, 25
    Camry 33, 24
    Accord 32, 23
    Fusion 32, 21

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Someday, eventually, by and by, the Tesla Model 3 will add to the mid-size sales numbers.

    Unless they’re not counted because of how Tesla reports its figures.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      When I first read this article I did a find for someone mentioning the 3.

      The price point starts where many of these reside. Its pre order sales could single handedly recover the segment for a year or so until pre order sales slide off.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    “Someday, eventually, by and by..”

    You’re one of my paragons of smarts and virtue here and I hate to see you Linus in public.

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