Vanishing Act: America's 10 Most Rapidly Declining New Vehicles in 2017

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
vanishing act americas 10 most rapidly declining new vehicles in 2017

The U.S. auto industry is shrinking. But only by a little bit.

Auto sales through the first five months of 2017 are down just 2 percent, a drop of roughly 140,000 sales across the entire industry. Aside from high inventories and rising incentives, it’s not all doom and gloom. 2016 was the highest-volume year in the history of the American auto industry — a 2-percent drop is hardly catastrophic.

This is therefore not 2009, when virtually every new vehicle suffered decreased volume. Many new vehicles are surging, selling significantly more often this year than last.

But in a declining market, many other nameplates are in fact losing sales. Many sales. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 volume nameplates losing U.S. sales most rapidly.

We drew some guidelines. “Volume” in this instance equals a 30,000-annual sales rate. That’s a total achieved by slightly less than half of all new vehicle nameplates in the 2016 calendar year. Pro-rated, that’s 12,500 sales through the end of May 2017.

By looking at “volume” vehicles, we’ll be able to see where America’s new vehicle sales are truly disappearing. Naturally, demand is supposed to dry up for discontinued models, so we’ve removed from contention, for example, the Jeep Patriot. We also excluded commercial-oriented vans.

Each of the vehicles listed below have their own reasons for losing sales. They all deserve asterisks and explanations. Some reasons are more obvious than others.

For the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, declining interest in large cars generally caused declines of 35 percent and 29 percent, respectively. The Chevrolet Malibu climbed to new heights just last year, but General Motors has not been able to sustain that pace as the midsize sedan segment contracts. Similarly, the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion made their way into the top 10.

The third-ranked Honda Odyssey is in a replacement phase. The fifth-generation Odyssey is just going on sale now, and that transition phase severely curtailed sales. As for Kia’s Odyssey-challenging Sedona, which is down 29 percent year-to-date, sales are crumbling in concert with much of the minivan category: minivan sales have also decreased at Toyota and Chrysler, albeit modestly. The Nissan Quest and Mazda 5 have been killed.

The eighth-ranked Ford Mustang has lost 28 percent of its five-month output from 2016, a loss of 14,767 sales for America’s leading sporting car. Competitors from Chevrolet and Dodge, the Camaro and Challenger, are flat, year-over-year. The Mustang reached an eight-year high when it was new in 2015 and was expected, like most two-doors, to tail off after that, particularly with a new Camaro launched the following year. Now, Mustang sales may also be affected by customers who prefer to wait for the upcoming launch of a refreshed 2018 model.

At the top of the heap sits the Jeep Compass. We could say bad things about the Compass. We could critique the failing Jeep. It is, after all, a favorite whipping boy at TTAC.

But the real reason Compass sales are down 58 percent this year relates to a massive changeover at the Jeep brand. Its sibling, the Patriot, is disappearing. The Compass structure, somewhat oddly, includes 2017 versions of both the first-generation Compass and the second.

RankVehicleMay 2017 YTD SalesMay 2016 YTD Sales% Change Compass17,43541,608-58.1% Impala28,50444,055-35.3% Malibu73,087104,187-29.9% Odyssey37,01052,698-29.8% Avalon14,21520,013-29.0% Sedona12,99818,297-29.0% Sonata66,76892,547-27.9% Mustang38,42253,189-27.8% Fusion89,086120,313-26.0% Soul43,62358,299-25.2%

Regardless, it’s not at all surprising to see Compass sales crumble. Nor will it be surprising to see Compass sales rapidly elevate as the new model comes on stream.

For now, these 10 models combined for a 30-percent downturn in 2017’s first five months; more lost sales than the market overall. The Lexus ES, Hyundai Accent, BMW 5 Series, Buick Enclave, and Mazda 3 all declined by at least 20 percent compared with early 2016. 24 other continuing nameplates reported double-digit percentage losses, from Ford Focus to the Infiniti QX60.

Meanwhile, some of the most popular vehicles in America — passenger cars, mostly — are also in decline. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and transitioning Toyota Camry combined to lose 46,220 sales already this year.

Thankfully, pickup trucks and SUVs/crossovers have added 225,000 extra sales.

* A previous edition of this ten-car list included only nine cars. It’s been updated to include the tenth-ranked Kia Soul. The rankings have been updated as a result.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 09, 2017

    Much of the loss in sales of midsize sedans is not that they are bad, but that they lost much of their functionality. Much harder to get in and out of, less roomy, less trunk space and many with the coupe like styling have so little headroom in the rear that an average sized person with average height hits their head on the rear glass. The sedans look nice with their sleek roof lines but they are not as comfortable and roomy so people are buying crossovers instead. I myself have no desire to buy another sedan due to what I mentioned above. Small turbo charged 4s do not help either but then many of the crossovers are going to those as well.

  • Akear Akear on Jan 06, 2018

    It looks as if Ford is cancelling one of the top selling cars in the nation. Jim Hackett must be a real moron.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.