So, Which of These Two Models Won the Race Last Year?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Coke and Pepsi. Colt and Smith & Wesson. Bert and Ernie. Camry and Accord.

The greatest rivalries inspire both loyalty and loathing among fans on either sides of the fence, but there can be only one victor. In the automotive world, sales are the yardstick by which success is measured, as passion alone can’t keep a car model alive.

For the sedan segment, no rivalry is fiercer than that of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, both longstanding standouts in the midsize class. With both models taking a larger and larger share of the shrinking market, and having both received an extensive revamp for the 2018 model year, how did the two challengers perform in 2017?

The next-generation Camry was first out of the gate, bearing a new, somewhat controversial design, and a massaged 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivering impressive efficiency. Toyota retained the V6 upgrade. As summer passed, the new Accord joined the race. Arguably the looker of the two, the 2018 Accord ditched its long-running coupe variant, kept the manual transmission alive, and endowed the engine bay with a duo of turbocharged four-cylinder powerplants.

We talked about these models once or twice.

In a year that saw U.S. light-duty vehicle sales fall for the first time since the recession, it was crossovers, SUVs, and trucks that ended 2017 on a high note, not sedans. Still, there’s volume to be had, and Camry and Accord have the reputation and name recognition to collect more of those remaining buyers.

Over the past 12 months, ending December 31st, some 322,655 Americans took home a Honda Accord. On the other side of the ring, 387,081 Americans welcomed a Camry into their lives. That’s 20 percent more buyers.

While the Camry won this particular sales race, both models saw sales declines compared to the previous year. The drop from 2016 to 2017 volume was only 0.4 percent for the Camry, while the Accord declined 6.5 percent. It’s worth mentioning again, for what it’s worth, that the new Camry arrived first. Still, if both models shrunk in volume, can either of them really claim a win?

Toyota predicted the new Camry would invigorate the midsize segment. Clearly, that didn’t happen, though it likely prevented a steeper Camry sales loss.

Despite the declines, December saw the two models head in strikingly opposite directions. Last month, Accord sales reached an 11-month sales low, with volume sinking 34.7 percent, year-over-year. In contract, Camry sales rose 29.7 percent, year-over-year — a 31-month high. Looking at the existing sales trend, that figure doesn’t seem all that organic. Still, those are the official stats.

And there you have it. Camry won the battle, not just between it and Accord, but between it and every other car in the United States. The Accord placed fourth overall. Between the two models sit two compacts, one from each automaker. Honda Civic sales rose 2.8 percent in 2017, cementing the model’s second-place finish. Meanwhile, the Toyota Corolla, despite sinking 13 percent in 2017, managed to pull off a bronze medal win.

If you’re curious as to the performance of other midsizers, here you go: The Nissan Altima finished third in the midsize sedan class, though sales fell 17 percent in 2017. Volume totalled 254,996 units. Behind it was the Ford Fusion with 209,623 sales — a 21.1 percent drop compared to 2016. Rounding out the rear of the top five was the Chevrolet Malibu with 185,857 vehicles sold. That’s an 18.4 percent decline for the year.

[Images: Toyota, Honda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • 200k-min 200k-min on Jan 11, 2018

    387k and 323k units are pretty respectable for top two spots. Spot three down at 255k units is no slouch either. Fleet sales or not they are vehicles on the road today. Lets go back 25 years. In 1992 Ford sold 410,000 Taurus sedans (not counting the Sable). Honda pressed out 393,000 Accords and Toyota 287,000 Camrys. Not a massive change for the top three spots. Even sales volume for vehicles lower down the list in 2017 align similar to the mid-sizers from GM, Chrysler and all the other players in the segment back in the 90's. Overall I get that the segment is declining but death watch worthy? Hardly.

  • William J Sisti William J Sisti on Jan 13, 2018

    I voted w/ my wallet. Picked up a 2018 Accord Sport 2.0T w/ the manual. traded in a 2012 BMW 535. Accords is very nice and way more engaging to drive.

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