Camry Crusher: Honda Civic Expands Lead as America's Best-selling Car

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
camry crusher honda civic expands lead as america s best selling car

In many ways, September 2017’s auto sales bucked the trend. After the industry combined for decreased volume, year-over-year, in each of 2017’s first eight months, auto sales in September rose 6 percent. Meanwhile, the shrinking car sector that tumbled 12 percent through the first two-thirds of 2017 was down only 3 percent in September.

There were two big reason the passenger car decline wasn’t worse: America’s two best-selling cars.

Excluding the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry, U.S. car sales fell 6 percent. But as the clear-out of remaining 2017 Honda Accords got underway and produced 10-percent growth, the launch of the 2018 Toyota Camry generated a 13-percent uptick. Meanwhile, the Honda Civic’s 26-percent surge allowed the compact Honda to expand its lead over the midsize Camry in the race to end 2017 as America’s best-selling car.

The Camry’s reign as America’s most popular passenger car began in 2002 and has gone uninterrupted since. At the current pace, however, the Camry’s 15-year run is set to end in 2017. The Civic’s 1,153-unit lead over the Camry through the end of August grew to 1,873 units by the end of September thanks to a 35,452-unit performance by American Honda last month.

That big Civic jump also drove the compact sedan/coupe/hatch to the top of Honda’s leaderboard, not just in September but on year-to-date terms. Slightly short supply of the in-demand CR-V produced a 3-percent downturn for Honda’s (former) best-selling model, opening up a slot at the top of the heap.

The Civic’s big improvement was also accompanied by a one-fifth loss of Fit sales, equal to roughly 1,000 fewer Fits sold in September 2017 than in the same period one year ago. Overall Honda car sales still rose 15 percent, the biggest car improvement of any major brand. Aside from niche premium outlets, only Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Kia, Toyota, and Volkswagen reported passenger car increases in September.

With rising Honda and Toyota car sales come decreased car market share at the traditional Detroit Three. Only five of this year’s 20 best-selling cars hail from Detroit brands, which saw their collective share of the September car results fall to 26 percent from 28 percent in September 2016.

As for the Civic and Camry, which together account for 12 percent of America’s car market, Automotive News says Honda claims the imported-from-Britain Civic hatchback accounts for 23 percent of year-to-date Civic volume, with imported-from-Japan Camrys accounting for one-quarter of the Camry’s September total.

RankCar2017 9 Months2016 9 Months% Change Civic284,380283,7830.2% Camry282,507297,455-5.0% Corolla265,273289,004-8.2% Accord250,802258,619-3.0% Altima199,861242,321-17.5% Sentra165,711169,476-2.2% Fusion159,742210,462-24.1% Cruze149,234138,0128.1% Elantra143,067157,050-8.9% Malibu141,162170,389-17.2% Focus123,827140,049-11.6% Sonata107,718155,279-30.6% Forte92,09279,60815.7% Jetta90,99589,7481.4% Soul90,727107,823-15.9% Impreza & WRX/STI88,74570,24126.3% Optima84,70489,327-5.2% Versa82,817106,455-22.2% Charger67,37872,270-6.8% Prius & Prius Prime65,96778,427-15.9%

Correction: a previous edition of this list featured the Toyota Highlander rather than the Toyota Prius.

[Image: Toyota, Honda]

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

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  • Syncro87 Syncro87 on Oct 05, 2017

    The Civic gets way too much hate from people that don't have significant seat time in a new one. Spend a few days in a Civic vs. most of the other similar choices out there, and get back to me. We have two Civics as our primary daily drivers. Sedan EX-T and Hatch LX. I tried to get the hatch in a stick, but none were available in my region for months, except for a few with the center exhaust that precluded me having a hitch for a bike rack. I don't know why people are surprised the Civic is selling well. When you drive a turbo Civic against competitors in the same price range, it's pretty obvious. We paid something like high $17k's for the hatch, and around $21k for the sedan. Nothing else I drove in the teens or $20k price range came close as an overall value. The turbo gives it enough pep to be half ways interesting, whereas most econo competitors feel slow by comparison. Honda resale is good. Honda reliability, with the exception of the odd teething glitch here and there, is above average. Looks? I don't really care. I'm not 18 any more, where I care what other people thing of my car's aesthetics. We're both averaging around 40 mpg combined on regular gas. The CVT is remarkably invisible on the turbo Civics. Yeah, the hatch is odd looking. But the rest of the car is good enough to where it's not a big deal. No $18k new car is perfect. The Civic was the closest I could find for the money. The Mazda3 was probably the closest on my short list, but didn't quite make my cut. The new Impreza was on the list, but they're still too under powered and boring. VW? I've owned too many of those to go down that road again for a while. Might have considered a diesel Cruze for a minute, but they weren't available around here when we bought...and I'd have probably thought better of that depreciation black hole anyway in the end. I forgot one car that came fairly close to making me plunk down money. The Elantra Sport. Fun to drive, decent standard equipment. The new style hatch wasn't available yet, though, and the sedan wasn't either when we got the wife's Civic sedan.

  • Bugman137 Bugman137 on Oct 10, 2017

    The pilot between 2006-2008 looked real nice! They became BUTT UGLY in 2009- 2012! They actually responded to a lot of consumer sentiment that agreed with me and tried to change them back in the generation you speak of. I don't think they are ugly at all.

  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...