By on October 5, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport - Image: HyundaiEver more minor midsize players continued to see their share of America’s midsize sedan segment dwindle in September 2017. The cause: domination on the part of America’s two major midsize cars.

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry enjoyed its first full month of meaningful availability in September and produced a 13-percent year-over-year U.S. sales improvement as a result. Meanwhile, Honda is clearing out remaining 2017 Accords in advance of the all-new 2018 Accord’s arrival this fall. Honda’s efforts produced a 10-percent uptick compared with September 2016.

Yet despite the big gains from the two major players, the upper class, the midsize segment still declined 7 percent in September because of sharp declines by many members of the middle class.

That means Camry and Accord market share continues to rise. That means the slice of the market earned by the middle class continues to shrink.


This is the sixteenth 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.


It’s not a new story, but it’s a story exacerbated by the transition from generation of the Camry to another. In September 2016, the Camry and Accord combined for 34 percent of the midsize market. One year later, the top-selling duo’s slice shot up not a little bit to 41 percent, a startling shift that came at the expense of vehicles such as the Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, and Volkswagen Passat most of all.

That trio of mid-pack cars owned just 20 percent of America’s midsize sedan segment in September 2017, down seven percentage points from a year ago.USA midsize car sales chart 2017 - Image: The Truth About CarsOf course, a market share loss of that magnitude doesn’t come merely because of the success of top-tier models. Nissan, Hyundai, and Volkswagen reported Altima, Sonata, and Passat declines of 34 percent, 36 percent, and 27 percent respectively. Nor were sharp declines reported by that trio the only momentous decreases. The Subaru Legacy tumbled 35 percent, the Mazda 6 was down 25 percent, the transitioning and semi-upmarket Buick Regal tumbled 57 percent. Unexpected were the improvements reported by the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, and Kia Optima, a trio of midsize cars that’s still failing to match last year’s pace on year-to-date terms.

Despite a handful of cars that posted notable improvements, the midsize segment’s decline was still twice as harsh as the overall passenger car sector’s slide. Midsize cars accounted for 10.4 percent of America’s new vehicle sales in September 2017, down from 11.9 percent a year ago.

Five years ago, midsize cars accounted for more than 16 percent of U.S. new vehicle sales and the Camry and Accord produced “only” 3 out of every 10 sales in the midsize segment. Now the duo generates 4 out of every 10 midsize car sales.

The rich get richer.

[Image: Hyundai. Chart: The Truth About Cars]

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 and Instagram.

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35 Comments on “Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #16: The Decline of the Midsize Class’s Middle Class...”


  • avatar
    deanst

    Perhaps the key to success is ugliness? First the Honda Civic, and now the Toyota Camry. I must be getting old.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    Hyundai needs a better looking Sonata. It looks ugly, it is old and slow. It has nothing going for it. Hyundai either needs to focus on Genesis, or give America better products and trucks

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      After test driving every freaking midsize in existence, there was no better midsizer than the Sonata. I LOVE the engine, the 2.0t has better torque at lower RPMs than most other players, and it shifts tighter and quicker than any other player. it has some segment leading technology, and comes in at a great price with a great warranty. I also think its one of the best looking sedans. The only problem I had when I bought it was the “Hyundai” logo and brand, and had narrowed down by decision to be between the Cadillac XTS and the Sonata. The accord felt cheap, the camry was a dog, the azera didn’t even make sense to me (the sonata became better in 2015), the mazda 6 had too many compromises and was loud (and didn’t let you buy a stick in the USA- but that doesn’t support my point), and the transmission shifted quirkily.

      You claim it is “ugly”, and I can’t refute that because well, thats a personal opinion. I think it looks good.
      You claim it is “old”, and this confuses me since it was almost entirely redesigned for 2015, and facelifted in 2018. That means its platform is relatively new AND the facelift is so fresh its just hitting stores now.
      You claim that it is “slow”, but its pretty quick from my experience. It doesn’t win drag races, but with peak torque at 1400 RPM its fun to drive as a daily.

      I think the Sonata is a winner, and in 2015 when it came out, Hyundai-kia had its all-time highest sales year.

      While many people keep pitching thise nonsense that Hyundai is “in trouble”, I want to take a minute to point out what others seem to miss.

      In 2006, 2007, and 2008 – when other car companies were breaking records- Hyundai never did over 772,482 vehicles in the US. In fact, from 2002-2009, the most they ever did in a year was 772,482.

      2016 was a record year for them, after 2015 was the previous record year for them, and 2014 was the previous record year for them. they’ve already done 1,127,074 through August in 2017!!

      With only 1 exception- a 5k drop from 2013 to 2014, every single year, Hyundai has bested its all time record since 2009!

      How can they possibly be “having nothing going for it” when its selling about double what it did 10 years prior, and has broken an all time sales record for the past 3 years?

      • 0 avatar
        cblais

        Unfortunately the 2.0T is the top trim and expensive. The normal 2.4L trims are so-so, when I test drove a ‘16 Limited I loved the seats, found the car to be unexpectedly loud (probably due to the tires), and the power train and steering left much to be desired. It’s pretty crazy that the Koreans are now being out-featured by the Japanese, great for the consumer I guess but not so great for Hyundai/Kia.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I’m not sure why you think the 2.0T is a great motor but objectively it’s essentially on par with the base 4-cylinder Camry, and gets slaughtered by the V6 Camry and new Accord turbos. And let’s be honest, the interior isn’t that great on the Sonata, it looks decent enough but you can tell materials aren’t as nice as the competition and there are so many exceedingly derivative parts. The little clip on the sunshade is clearly knocked off from the VW original but not made nearly as well.

    • 0 avatar
      AndyYS

      I like the look of the 2018 Sonata. It’s not overly busy like the Camry or a wannabe fastback like the Accord. I haven’t driven it but I don’t I think I’ll mind that it doesn’t drive like a NASCAR vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Problem I see with this generation of Sonata is it’s essentially the rushed sequel to a hit movie or debut album. The 2009-2015 Sonata was a genuinely good car, I remember renting one in 2009 and literally could not believe it was a Hyundai. To my eye it was very attractive and distinctive as well. It took Hyundai from being a bland, generic, cheapo, to a mainstream competitor.

        This Sonata is not that Sonata. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary. It’s a competent car, and more refined than its predecessor, but just doesn’t stand out from the pack in the way the 2009-2015 did.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Going to disagree.

          What the previous gen Sonata had going for it was non-boring sheetmetal (tho, personally, found it a but too busy up front).

          Its successor was a better handler and had a better ride; the problem was that Hyundai went too far and made the design too bland (not that it was ugly or anything, just safe and bland).

          The MCE with the significant cosmetic changes brings some “zip” back to the sheetmetal and there are further improvements to the ride and steering – which makes the current Sonata a good bit better than the previous generation.

          The problem is – an all new and greatly improved Accord and Camry which have also increased rear passenger space (esp. for the Accord).

          Hyundai will not only need striking sheetmetal, but will need to grow the next gen Sonata in size, improve the interior and add some of that Elantra Sport goodness (if not some from the i30N).

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    I rented a Camry LE this weekend. Pretty much same Camry as always on the inside, even with the hideous new body. One thing that I found very annoying was the bluetooth connection. It was very counter intuitive to set up and kept losing connection with my phone. I know it’s not my phone, since I rent cars all the time and this is the first time it’s happened.

    It also had the adaptive cruise control which was nice to have in a rental. Once you use that thing, not having it is like being nekkid.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The simple reason for the mid-size decline? One word, kinda: CUV.

    The OEMS really don’t make cars distinctive anymore, and seemingly everyone likes to sit up higher. In a world of SUV/CUVs, cars are getting somewhat lost in the pack.

    Wifey and I were talking about this very subject the other day. She loves her CR-V for the exact reason, she like to sit up higher.

    Me? I still like my Impala, and would probably go to a Malibu next, but something smaller and easier entry and exit also appeals to me.

    How about an Encore or Trax? Time will tell.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    There are some really great sedans out there right now.

    The problem is that I don’t love them enough to choose them over the other choices on the market.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This doesnt surprise me, when you make every car low and “sporty” people will get sick of it eventually.

    Frankly, there isnt a mid-sized car on the market that doesnt hark back to the Grand Prix in some way, whether it be terrible rear roof line, the low ride height, the narrow rear quarter windows…at least the Grand Prix had a good engine.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Which generation of the Grand Prix?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        The final ’03-’08 generation, we had an ’03 on the family that was fairly reliable, it just needed alignments constantly since it couldnt take city driving well, bottomed out a lot too.

        At Scout:
        Since both my father and I are on the taller side, often we’re stuck with either boxy cars/CUVs or just big sedans when car shopping. I ended up going Panther myself, may as well enjoy RWD if I’m going to get something that gets 27mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup the reason that many people are making the switch to a CUV is that the other option is a 4dr sport coupe with a hard to access back seat and trunk, that doesn’t have much room even if you can fit something through that tiny opening.

      The available midsize sedans are really making me think long and hard about CUVs. My wife had a 2010 Fusion Hybrid and its roof line made the back seat reasonable to get in and out of and the trunk would pass the Costco test. The 13 and up vehicles roof line kills the back seat and leaves a trunk that I doubt will pass the Costco test w/o folding down the back seat which negates the advantages of the sedan.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Am I the only one confused by the comparison of Timothy’s text and his market share chart? Eg; the Passat is one of the three ” came at the expense of vehicles such as the Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, and Volkswagen Passat “. The chart shows Passat’s market share INCREASED from 3% to 4%. With Volkswagen reporting a drop of 27% ! How is this at all possible at the same time ? Similar confusion with some of the others.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    As a Fusion owner, I’m still surprised it has taken a sales dive in 2017. The vehicle is so easily configurable and can be had at a great price. While market % shows to be 1% less on this chart, actual sales are down in the neighborhood of 24% which is astounding.

  • avatar
    volvoguyincanada

    I have driven the Fusion since 2010. Entry level V6 had balls that Honda and Toyota couldn’t match.

    Test drove the Passat once.. spacious, but the turbo sounds like a dying dog.

  • avatar

    A cheap CUV is better than a cheap economy car…it’s still cheap, it won’t be fast, but it will fit all of your friends and luggage….

  • avatar
    threeer

    So, to recap…in the future we’ll all either drive a Camry, Accord, F-150 (I know the F-150 was not part of this article, but it is one of the top sellers, period)or some version of a CUV. Nice.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    Here’s my story on this subject. This summer we needed to revise our fleet. It consisted of a CX-3, an RX-8 and a Miata. Needed a true 5 passenger car and the rotary was, sadly, losing compression. Best car ever but for that. Wife’s car was the CX-3. She really liked it after driving a Tribute for 10 years.

    I went to the Mazda dealer fully intending to buy a top of the line Mazda6. Drove the car. Very, very fine car. But, something was missing. What I would refer to as the “hoot to drive” factor. It was just not as tossable as I wanted. My wife would not have wanted a 6 because due to hip and back pains does not like to get too far down into a car on a daily basis. Which is why the CX-3 and not the 3.

    My plan then shifted. I get the CX-3, which on a daily basis is a hoot to drive, and she could have a CX-5. So I drive a CX-5. Much as I am a car guy, I found the dynamics of the 2017 CX-5 to be better than the 6. I was personally stunned, but from a seat of the pants feel, the CX-5 was blast where the 6 was exceptionally refined. Bottom line, I went to the dealer to buy a fully optioned 6 GT and left with a new CX-5 Touring. My wife loves the CX-5 and will likely drive that for another 10 years just like her Tribute. I have the CX-3 for the time being, and we still have the Miata for summer cruises.

    In looking back on it, what I realized is that the 6 has a much longer wheelbase than the CX-5. Keep in mind that the CX-5 is based on the 3 and it begins to make some sense why the CX-5 dynamics were so much better feeling to me. The CX-3? It is not based on the 3 but based on the 2, which is why its dynamics are different still, even different from that of the Mazda3. So we now have the sports car, the fun and thrifty and maneuverable commuter, and the slightly larger ute for carrying 5 people comfortably as well as plenty of luggage space. But it is the vehicle dynamics of the CX-5 being so good that cost at least one sale of a Mazda6 this past July.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I have to wonder when the pendulum will swing back. It’ll be interesting to see how many manufacturers get caught with their pants down because they don’t offer a decent midsizer when/of fuel prices spike again.

    I drove a Honda Accord Sport back to back with a Mazda6 Touring and agree the Honda felt and looked extremely cheap in comparison. The dealer also left a lot to be desired.

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