Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #14: July 2017 Sales Plunge by a Fifth, Everybody Falls Except the Dodge Avenger

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
midsize sedan deathwatch 14 july 2017 sales plunge by a fifth everybody falls

Every midsize car on sale in the United States reported declining year-over-year volume in July 2017. Every car except the Dodge Avenger, which came back from the dead with 10 reported sales after a nine-month hiatus. 2014 was the Avenger’s last model year.

But forget that sales stat quirk — Pentastar Avenger Blacktop Edition, be still my soul. Every other midsize nameplate generated fewer sales in July 2017 than July 2016, with losses piling up fastest at Ford and Hyundai, with the Fusion and Sonata, respectively.

Between major Fusion and Sonata losses and decreased volume everywhere else, U.S. midsize car volume fell by a fifth in July 2017 — a 36,000-unit decline.

This is the fourteenth 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.

As automakers claim, en masse, to be resisting the appeal of easy fleet volume, the midsize segment that has historically helped fill rental car lots is suffering particularly sharp losses in 2017’s retail-only quest. Consider that in the 2016 calendar year, Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and General Motors generated 29 percent, 24 percent, and 20 percent of their U.S. sales via fleet. In July 2017, those figures fell to 20 percent, 10 percent, and 11 percent, respectively.

Pair reduced fleet efforts with reduced retail demand — and at Hyundai, a transition phase into a refreshed model — and the result is a 48 percent drop to only 10,648 sales for the Sonata. Hyundai’s share of the midsize market fell to 7.3 percent in July 2017 and is down to 8.2 percent (from 9.7 percent in 2016) so far this year.

The Ford Fusion’s July decline was similarly harsh. The 42 percent drop to 13,886 sales represented the lowest-volume month for the Fusion since October 2012. Fusion sales are down by nearly a third so far this year, which means Fusion sales are 50,000-units weaker this year than last.

Incidentally, the most inconsequential decline in the midsize category in July 2017 belonged to the best-selling midsize car: Toyota’s Camry. With the launch of the all-new 2018 Camry underway, Toyota sold 33,827 Camrys in July 2017, a modest 1-percent decrease compared to July 2016. Unfortunately for Toyota, that wasn’t enough for the Camry to be America’s best-selling car last month. The best seller’s crown was worn by the Honda Civic, sales of which jumped 11 percent.

Yes, while every midsize car in America reported declining sales in July, there were cars, such as the Civic, that managed to report improvements, even as the U.S. auto industry slid 7 percent. The midsize segment’s 20-percent slide was substantially worse than the car sector’s 15-percent drop. Indeed, if midsize cars are excluded, the U.S. passenger car sector was down “only” 13 percent. Compact car volume, meanwhile, was down just 5 percent in July and year-to-date.

According to Kelley Blue Book, midsize car average transaction prices slid 0.4 percent, year-over-year, to $24,852 in July 2017. Compact car ATPs rose 1.3 percent to $20,403.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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

Join the conversation
4 of 23 comments
  • Legacygt Legacygt on Aug 02, 2017

    There is not doubt that these cars are declining in popularity. The popular explanation is the rise of crossovers which is too obvious to mention. (Although it would be worth some investigating as to how much of this is real consumer preference and how much is the tail wagging the dog as automakers are happier with the CAFE implications of selling more "trucks.") Regarding mid-size sedans in particular, it's also worth noting how large these cars have become over the years. A 2017 Civic is probably a more useful family car than a 1997 Accord. Some families used to need a mid-sizer whereas, now many families can get by with a "compact" sedan.

  • Freddie Freddie on Aug 02, 2017

    At some point we need to adjust our vocabulary. The small SUV or CUV is now the default "family sedan". What we now call a "sedan" is a specialty vehicle, a low to the ground sporty version of a family sedan, maybe a "sport sedan".

    • See 1 previous
    • Packardhell1 Packardhell1 on Aug 03, 2017

      "The small SUV or CUV is now the default “family sedan”." I agree with this. I own a Hyundai Accent and a Grand Caravan. I had a 2006 Sonata (3.3L V6) prior to the Grand Caravan. Removing style from the equation, the Sonata does nothing better than the Caravan. I think the Caravan offers better steering feel, the gas mileage is the same, and it is wayyyy more practical. My Sonata wouldn't have hauled the kiddie pool home from Menard's, but the Caravan did. Getting two kids in/out of a sedan (be it subcompact or midsize) is a pain, especially with special needs kiddos who can't buckle their own belts yet. The van (or SUV/CUV if we owned one) lets me stand up and do the same thing. Yes, I have to lift a bit higher to do that, but I am standing upright when doing that. My point is that, with vehicle choices as they are, what practical advantages does a midsize sedan have over other options? My parents have a 2012 Camry. They love the car and it has been fantastically reliable. It will fit 2 car seats in the back, but my parents are still bending over to reach for the belts, or dropped toys/drinks. They also own a 2004 Suburban. Guess which one is easier for them to get the kiddos in and out of, and which one they drive more often when they watch our kids? The 9-passenger Suburban (my kiddos call it the Big Red Bus) wins every time because the kids have space, they can see, they don't feel like they are sitting on the ground, and ingress/egress is easy. The Accords, Camrys, and Sonatas will still have their place for folks with enough money to have that extra vehicle and not need the additional practicality provided by a van/SUV/CUV....maybe those folks are becoming fewer and fewer?

  • Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.