By on December 4, 2017

 

2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T - Image: Honda

In a shrinking segment increasingly dominated by two longstanding nameplates, the battle for sales supremacy is quickly resembling a U.S. election. Two main players, plus a handful of also-rans. (In Europe, this would be a very different — and probably quite confusing — affair.)

For all players in the U.S. midsize sedan market, it’s really a battle to hold on to market share, to keep sales from sliding further, as more and more customers look elsewhere for family transportation. Two Japanese offerings, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, loom over all other challengers. In November, one of these nameplates began putting some serious distance between it and its main competitor.

If you were rooting for the Accord, sorry. November was the next-generation 2018 model’s first full month on sale, but the Accord finished the month down 15.4 percent, year-over-year.

Some of the decrease could be due to slow deliveries of the new model to dealers, coupled with the disappearance of discounted 2017 models. 2018 Camry sales started at least a month earlier. So, we’ll have a clearer picture of this rivalry going forward. Still, the Accord’s trajectory was 180 degrees opposite that of the Camry’s, which closed the month with a 24.1-percent increase, year-over-year. In terms of volume, Camry’s 34,991 units beats the Accord’s 22,998 by nearly 12,000 vehicles.

Over the first 11 months of 2017, U.S. Camry volume tops that of the Accord by just over 43,000 units. Maybe buyers will fall in love with the stick shift over the holidays, leading to an Accord purchase in the New Year. That’s a big maybe. Design and handling is far more likely to play a role in any purchase.

 

2018 Toyota Camry SE white - Image: Toyota

Over at Hyundai, the brand’s refreshed 2018 Sonata just can’t find any traction. Despite edgier front and rear styling, Sonata sales sank 48 percent in November, year-over-year. Over the first 11 months of 2017, that translates into a 33.6-percent drop in volume. Sales of the Kia Optima were down 33.9 percent, year-over-year.

The Ford Fusion, which offers more drivetrain choice than any other midsize sedan, saw a 15.1-percent year-over-year sales drop in November, and a 22.1-percent drop in volume in calendar year 2017. Chevrolet Malibu sales dropped 27.8 percent in November, year-over-year, and the Buick Regal’s popularity dropped 55.3 percent as dealers await delivery of the next-generation 2018 model.

At Volkswagen, U.S. sales of the long-in-the-tooth Passat dropped just over 51 percent, year-over-year. Mazda’s 6 saw its worst sales tally since 2012 in November, with sales dropping 45.8 percent, year-over-year. It remains to be seen if the introduction of a turbocharged four-cylinder (due in 2018) can reverse the model’s sales slide.

Nissan’s Altima, still a high-volume sedan, recorded a much more modest YoY sales decline of 4.8 percent in November.

All in all, not a great month for any midsizer, with the obvious exception of the Camry. The sales performance of sedans from automakers not named Toyota or Honda gives credence to the theory that in a shrinking segment, the most well-known nameplates will survive the longest.

[Images: Honda, Toyota]

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64 Comments on “So, Who’s Winning the Midsize Sedan Battle?...”


  • avatar

    Makes Sergio’s then controversial decision to dump the Dart and 200 look brilliant in hindsight.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      +1

      Agree

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Well, you got me there.

      Personally, I think they missed an opportunity to turn the beautiful Dart into an EV. All it really needed was a decent drivetrain.

    • 0 avatar
      Oberkanone

      Brilliant? Not so fast. Wait 10 years and see if the decision passes the test of time.
      If the market shifts back to high fuel economy vehicles like sedans and hatches FCA will have no options left other than selling off Jeep and Ram or pulling an Iacocca out of it’s butt by creating hit vehicles out of nearly no resources.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I don’t think it will shift back. Crossovers are already becoming more fuel efficient- a lot more than they used to be. The marginal gains of going back to a sedan won’t be enough.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          And there are no slow deliveries dpd thr Accord according to a Honda engineer on Autoline After Hours with John MacElroy. The only had 30 empty carriers when switch from 2017 to 2018 models. The 2.0T odes trickled out to reviewer’s lime Redline on YouTube but the public offering will be later. The Malibu 2.0T Premier is $10,000 and is faster in some tests on MT, brakes shorter, and sees a better 37 mpg highway.

    • 0 avatar
      JREwing

      Sergio should’ve kept his mouth shut until they actually pulled the cord on the Dart and 200. Barking about killing them off so far in advance pretty much guaranteed the remaining buyers stayed far away. The 200 was not even on the market one year before the announcement was made!

      The biggest issue with either model was a back seat that was way too small. The Dart was also saddled with a generally terrible engine lineup. And that 9-speed auto took them years to sort out.

      What’s frustrating is the Pacifica shows FCA can do car platforms well.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    It’s possible some of the potential buyers are looking for the 2.0 Accord. It isn’t in upstate NY AFAIK. My friend’s test drove the 1.5 and think they’ll buy the 2.0.

    It was interesting. Mrs. Friend, whose 2011 Accord has over 125,000 miles wanted a more luxurious ride. She tested the Lucerne and hated the driving position. Impala was OK, but she and Mr. Friend both liked the Accord best. I couldn’t talk them into waiting for the 2019 TLX or trying a Toyota or Lexus.

    I think it will be their 5th Honda with one Subaru in the mix. This after Mr. Friend’s LeSabre developed the cooling system plenum leak so common on 3.8 GMs.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The 2.0 isn’t out at all, to my knowledge.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The 2.0T had a later roll out as they were making solely 1.5t. Not sure why you wait for a Accord 2.0T when the Malibu 2.0T is +$10,000 less when discounted and pretty much runs rings around the 2018…since 2016. The Accord is finally catching up and still people are over paying.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Camry’s 34,991 units beats the Accord’s 22,998 by nearly 12,000 vehicles.”

    Didn’t Toyota said, “we will redefine sedan sales”? sometimes is good to trust people.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      They’re throwing all kinds of deals on it, everywhere I look its 0% for 75 years or whatever. Pretty “bold” for an all-new car.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        There really some special APR/Financing Bonus offers but nothing extra-ordinary and money saving. 0% – there will be whole 10 people who qualify :-)

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Every review so far says the Camry is an inferior vehicle vis a vis the Accord. The Accord is so easily the better car and Honda knows that and is in the catbird seat.

          Toyota is desperate – they have a new fleet queen w/ the Camry. Toyota should rename the Camry the AltimaTOO because that’s their competition.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            thornmark, I gotta know where the Honda fervor is coming from, I’ve been watching your peculiar attempts at dominance display for too long now.

            You’ve got to be a Honda employee in some form to have this kind of tribal brand obsession, right? Engineer? Designer? Someone somewhat important and influential with the brand? Maybe you race in an S2000 you modified yourself? Honda motorcycle enthusiast? They’ve got a lot of product to be proud of now so if you are behind that in some way you have good reason to be cocky.

            But if you just sell the things or own them, then I just can’t quite fathom the snarky negative zeal. Especially over a 4 door midsizer.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        “Oh what a feeling!”

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Yeah, 12K Camrys that Hertz is going to stick me with.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      They are throwing loads of money on the hood and already stuffing them into rental fleets. Have seen 4 2018 Camry LE’s at my local Enterprise and 3 were refrigerator white with dull grey interiors. The proverbial rental car color combo

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        While not exciting, I do like that even the low end models come with the adaptive cruise, precollision, etc. Too bad they’re not full speed systems, but they’re still helpful on longer drives.

  • avatar
    NoID

    FCA. They performed a strategic withdrawal and sold more CUVs instead.

    It doesn’t make me happy, but it does make me money.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Some automakers are stuffing vehicles with unproven and expensive to fix technology. Overwrought engineering, bleeding edge electronics and hugely complex transmissions need time to mature. Let the morons with deep pockets take the enormous financial hit when they fail.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      Gardiner-
      They were saying the same thing years ago about fuel injection, electronic ignition, ABS braking systems, etc. And while any of these could be expensive to fix-they don’t break often.

      BTW-ask what it costs to have a carburetor professional rebuilt.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        It cost very little when carburetors were common. Besides, Toyota is the brand that can be trusted to deliver new technology fully formed. If they’re saying the science fair projects are ill-conceived, only fools will ignore them. This is the first generation for the Camry and Accord where I would take the Camry over the Accord. I manage an all-makes shop and see what becomes of people who believe the quality-leveling lie every day.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        150 bucks to rebuild my quadrajet for my 1981 Trans AM by National Carburetors several years ago. They did a perfect job too

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Buick Regal’s popularity dropped 55.3 percent as dealers await delivery of the next-generation 2018 model.”

    Dear GM,

    A 55% decline is not the result of an unpopular segment, it signifies how much you failed in what should be a relatively simple thing.

    Idiots.

    Hugs and Kisses,
    Society

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I’m loving my 2014 Accord with the 2.4L/CVT. I test drove the same model year Camry and it was OK, but needed way more cash on the hood than the local dealer was willing to shovel on it to make it to the top three choices. I agree that that’s what is going on now.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    I figure Toyota has dumped greenback on the hood of the Camry as well as extended term financing. Those usually work well getting tight wads to sign in the dotted.

    Over at Honda, the salesman told me there are no discounts on the new Accord with the 1.5T. I asked how many they sold so far. Zero so far. Oh, they also had $1200 in rubber mats and rust proofing and some other stupid profit building ad on. The other Honda dealer a few miles away said the Sport 1.5T can be bought for $24600. MSRP was $26600. Bet they have sold a few compared to no discount dealer. I should follow up with me no discount to see how things are going.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      As a salesperson I detest the discount dealer. If you can’t sell a newly released vehicle at sticker and justify it, you have no business selling cars. Profit is not a dirty word and early adopters happily pay more.

      There is very little profit in new cars as it is, why give it away?

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        As a consumer I detest dealing with car salesmen. They mostly waste my time and their commission adds zero value to the purchase. The basic purchase process is super simple: The buyer requests bids from several suppliers for a specified car, sellers respond, the buyer responds with a counter offers, sellers counter, repeat a couple of cycles, buyer and seller either agree on an out-the-door price or they don’t. Subtract out the time-wasting sales scripts and the market price could be determined fairly quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          try buying through Costco – when I bought my new car the price they negotiated was considered exceptional at Truecar.

          the Honda dealer merely asked to be allowed to give the extended warranty pitch before I declined it – which I did since I was buying a Honda and not another European nightmare.

          the dealer actually sent me a check after I picked up the car, saying the registration was less than expected

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        There are these things called incentives paid for by the factory. They go a long way to convincing us tightwads to buy a car we really don’t need. Negative incentives include goofy, over priced add ons. They help send customers running for the door.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    We’ll see what happens when Honda has full availability of all Accords. The 2.0T is just now starting to trickle into dealers, and the hybrid won’t be there until the spring.

    In the meantime, Toyota will clean up. The Sonata refresh is a sad joke compared to the new Camry, and the rest of the competition is either old (Ford, VW, Nissan), lukewarm (Chevy, Kia), or hamstrung by a bad dealer network (Mazda).

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      If anything the 2018 Camry in 4 cylinder form is lukewarm. Despite being all new and having the most std HP is couldn’t outrun the less powerful new Accord or a 2018 185 HP base trim Sonata SE from 0-60, didn’t handle, brake or steer as well and certain sacrifices left the trunk smaller and the interior isn’t class leading on room like it once was. The styling is also weird and downright ugly in front as if it were a rejected Lexus design from 5 years ago. I actually preferred driving a rental 2017 Malibu LT and am sure I will like the new Accord better also.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Interesting how existing biases will shape how stats and figures are viewed. One could argue that using a 2.5L naturally aspirated engine to achieve the same acceleration and fuel economy figures as a highly regarded 1.5 turbo is simply choosing a different route to the same destination.

        One might then also acknowledge that the 1.5 turbo in your preferred rental is absolutely shamed in outright performance by either of the aforementioned cars.

        A more neutral person would also look at the sales figures of the Toyota, Honda, Chevy, and Hyundai and take an honest stab at answering why the latter two so badly trail the former. Such a person may find that the available information on reliability, cost of ownership, and depreciation as well as the overall competence of the products for their intended audience might have something to do with it.

        Now if you’re using brand bias as a lens, this all changes. The Camry is then mediocre leftovers whose fleet presence invalidates its podium finish with private sales. The buyers are idiot lemmings for not properly factoring irrelevant and somewhat tire-dependent skidpad Gs into their buying decision and opting instead for what resides in your own driveway or showroom floor. And this becomes a pebble in your shoe. And it grates.

        Irritation at that pebble may lead you to commit the fallacy of hyper-fixation on “enthusiast” criteria relevant only in the infinitely small microcosm of websites like this to judge a *4 cylinder automatic family car*. I would think a typical enthusiast would be better served by the handful of remaining manual gearboxes or something else entirely rather than obsessing over the comparatively tiny differences in a FWD automatic economy car.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If the pattern holds, Toyota will incentivize the Camry and send an undignified portion to rental fleets in order to keep the sales tally higher. I’m not sure why this isn’t hurting resale, but privately owned Camries still seem to hold their value. Those leaving the rental fleets (the majority of 2015s and 2016s on the market now) can be had for a quite a bit less, though.

    I thought the outgoing Camry held its own quite well against the Accord, but it looks like Honda really put its game face on with the new one.

  • avatar
    deanst

    “Hey Ethel – the new Camry is in. Do we want to go with dark beige or light beige this time?”

  • avatar
    riggodeezil

    Anecdotally, I know of at least 2 appliance-drivers that recently picked the Camry because: (a) it doesn’t have a turbo and (b) it doesn’t have a CVT. The rest of it didn’t seem to matter to them at all– “meh, they all kind of look the same. I don’t need anything fancy…just something that won’t break or cost me a lot if it does. I hear turbos break a lot and my dad had a CVT once and it sucked.” Oddly enough, these 2 are the type to stand in line the day a new phone model comes out. So, go figure…

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “Anecdotally, I know of at least 2 appliance-drivers that recently picked the Camry because: (a) it doesn’t have a turbo and (b) it doesn’t have a CVT.”

      Throw those into the blender with “and neither is it made by Honda,” and you’ve got a winner.

      Honda’s 20-year track record with doing anything outside a naturally aspirated 4 cylinder with a manual transmission, is dismal to say the least. Honda of the 1990s is long, long gone.

      A Honda turbo with CVT? It’s like a Chinese grenade with the pin pulled–can you count on the full 7 seconds, or will it blow up in your hand? Either way, it will blow up.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        you have no idea what you are talking about – the Honda CVT is w/o peer and Honda succeeded w/ DI where others failed.

        Honda wouldn’t be doing turbos if they didn’t think they had the bugs out – the Honda auto issues were real but very old and Honda obviously learned

        resale values tell the tale

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        What

        The only problematic Honda powertrain was their V6 + 5AT combo, which was due entirely to the 5AT. Engine wise they are as solid as ever, new tech and all.

        And you speak of Honda from the 90s…. you must have forgot about the timing belt tensioner and oil burning of the H22, the head gasket issues of the C32, the main relay problems that spanned across pretty much everything from 1988-1994, the Mazda-esque appetite for rust, etc. etc. Spare me your rose tinted glasses; look at my screen name; I lived with “golden era Hondas” for close to a decade and while they are better than most it was nowhere near rosy. My 09 Civic is no more or less reliable than anything from that time.

  • avatar

    Interesting to watch how Cadillac-killer Kia sales are imploding. No one wants BMW on discount?

    Regarding Mazda my theory is that most buyers are not aware that Mazda is a Japanese company.

    Accord – wait until next year – sales will be beautiful!

    Mitsubishi was not mentioned but they are Nissans now so they will do okay.

    Regal – two tight interior and no one will touch it until new model arrives. I hope they remove that Opelness and make it real Buick.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    “Year over year” is an odd term, especially when used over and over. Maybe mix in a “last year”, a ‘previous year”, and even a “2017” (if you’re talking about 2018 models).

    Sedans suck, btw. I just wish people preferred wagons, rather than wagons-on-stilts.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Ultimately, who cares? Declining sedan sales are being replaced by presumably more profitable CUV sales. I hate CUVs less than I hate beigemobile sedans, at least they are somewhat useful, and neither is any fun to drive anyway. But it matters not, since I will never buy either one.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Exactly. I always laugh whenever I hear someone bemoaning the death of driving dynamics via CUV. As if a Camry LE has ever been some kind of scintillating canyon carver.

  • avatar
    Winwakawhoo

    I’ve decided to buy a mule instead of a car. That way, I do not have to do as much critical thinking and I can make a bad decision the ol’ fashioned way…..i.e., without thinking about it.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    “So, Who’s Winning the Midsize Sedan Battle?…”

    —- Tesla

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Tesla.

      House of cards built on government subsidies.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        And burning through cash like there is no tomorrow, which at this rate, there won’t be for them.

        Look at their year-over-year cashflow chart and try to keep your eyes from popping out of your head.

        All the Teslavangelists out there have waaayyy too much faith in their fake god to understand the financial reckoning that is imminent.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    I have to wonder if the Civic is stealing sales from the new Accord. The Civic offers modest incentives whereas the new Accord likely wont for several months. The Civic offers most of the power, room and amenities of the Accord with better fuel economy and a lower price. Yes, I know it’s not pretty, but I wouldn’t be surprised if sales staff are walking customers over to Civic after they express disappointment in the pricing of the new accord and threaten to head to the Toyota store. By the way, if you like manual transmissions and have not driven the Civic 1.5T with a manual you owe it to yourself to try it. It’s a hoot!

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I have a coworker who just bought a new Civic for just under $20K. It is the size of the Accord of 15 years ago! And it’s a really nice car with both RH side and rear view cameras.

      • 0 avatar
        Giltibo

        My wife drives a 2018 Civic Sport Touring Hatch (6MT!). It’s a mini-Accord, end of story. (Actually, the new Accord is a maxi-Civic – they’re built on the same platform, as well as the CR-V).

        The Camry is available with a more sparse base equipment, which makes it more affordable for fleets, or people who look for a more affordable vehicle than the Accord, which in part explains the higher numbers (here in Canada, Camries and Sonatas – at car auctions, you can get 2 lightly used Sonatas for the price of a used Accord – are among favorites for taxicabs)

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    The new Accord is a visual obscenity. Even if it were heads and shoulders above the others in dependability and driving experience, which it isn’t, it still wouldn’t be a good buy.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Not apples to apple comparison between Toyota and Honda since Honda does not do fleet sales anymore e.g. rental companies.


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