By on May 2, 2018

2017 Kia Cadenza - Image: Kia

April wasn’t a hot month for auto sales, what with two less selling days than the same period last year. Overall, the industry was down nearly 5 percent last month, with — in many cases — only the hottest-selling models, many of them recently revamped SUVs, posting a net gain.

April held some surprises, though, and one had to do with a pair of vehicles that should be on their way to the funeral home. That is, if all automakers acted on what they saw in the tea leaves. Certain automakers, Toyota and Kia among them, aren’t quite as eager to hop onto the all-crossovers-and-trucks bandwagon. Because of this, there’s still choice for someone looking for a large, front-wheel-drive sedan with plenty of content, but not luxury vehicle levels of it.

These people actually exist, albeit in ever smaller numbers. And these people apparently like what they see in two particular models.

During the recent 2019 Toyota Avalon test drive, some murmuring was overheard about the rival Kia Cadenza, and how it’s not worthy of unflattering jokes. Our own Chris Tonn discovered this after driving a second-generation Cadenza last year. Positioned above the midsize Optima, the refreshed Cadenza is apparently everything a Korean Buick should be.

While poring through yesterday’s sales data, I noticed that, while Kia volume fell 5.2 percent in April, year over year, Cadenza sales rose by 10 vehicles. Hardly a massive gain, but a gain nonetheless. Year-to-date, however, the Cadenza found 65.5 percent more buyers than the same period last year.

Curiosity piqued, I looked back in time to find the Cadenza, outfitted with a 290 horsepower 3.3-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic, just posted 12 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains in the United States. The current generation hit the market in late 2016 as a 2017 model. I must say, it was a little surprising. (A quick check of Kia’s consumer website shows no special offers for Cadenza buyers.)

2016 Toyota Avalon - Image: Toyota

A similar thing seems to be occurring over at Toyota, where the long-in-the-tooth Avalon awaits its imminent, edgier replacement. While Toyota’s car division sank 12.7 percent in year-over-year sales in April (brand-wide sales fell 4.7 percent), the Avalon posted an 18.5 percent gain. Over the first four months of 2018, Avalon volume rose 21.9 percent.

Unlike the Kia, however, there’s a good financial reason to go looking for a soon-to-be-outdated Avalon. Toyota has $5,000 in factory cash waiting for anyone interested in a cushy highway cruiser with legendary longevity. It’ll be interesting to see where the new model takes this sales trajectory.

True, you won’t mistake either car for a sales juggernaut. The only thing making their sales noteworthy is the fact that they’ve pulled back from the brink, as any change in volume direction is this class means a change from the norm. Regardless, it shows there’s still sales to be had in a sparsely populated, rapidly declining segment. (And especially if there’s cash on the hood.)

[Images: Kia Motors, Toyota]

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31 Comments on “Two Large Front-drive Cars Buck the Sales Trend...”

  • avatar

    The cars are selling to “settlers”. People used to settle for the Camry or Sonata, but BECAUSE of the cash on the hood, they can now move up to something a bit larger and fancier. The generous discount makes a new Avalon cheaper than a recent used one, and it comes with new tires/brakes and full warranty. No surprises here.

  • avatar

    The Alfa Giulia is doing pretty okay too.

  • avatar

    Cadenza found 65.5 percent more buyers… Cadenza sales rose by 10 vehicles.

    Yep its a massive hit. Statistically sales this low are just noise. I don’t see how this counts as a trend in any meaningful way.

    • 0 avatar

      The Cadenza went from 4,378 in sales in 2016 to 7,249 for 2017 – a pretty decent jump for the new model.

      YTD, Cadenza sales are a little down from 2017 – but it now has to contend with another similarly priced model in the lineup (Stinger); plus, Kia doesn’t really advertise the Cadenza – which is a shame as it’s really nice for what it is.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    The 2 worst selling large sedans on the market last year actually had a sales increase.
    Dealers are discounting the pants off these just to get them off their lot.
    Poor Toyota loving fan boy cried all night long when he saw Camry sales down 5%. Decided to write an article about the only Toyota car whose sales were up.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Pete, “fan boy cried” could be your username here.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis


        Avalon and Cadenza
        Really? the cars barely sell. All the news that came out yesterday and this is what the author focused on. A few better headlines would be.
        1.Ford sedans are going. Whose next.
        2. Gas prices up, Prius sales still down.
        3.Sub-compact sales tank. Will the category survive.
        4. Eclass, A5 & 5series show it is still possible to sell a midsized car in the U.S.
        5. Diamante why Mitsubishi’s attempt at Luxury failed, and what Genesis can learn from it.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        Come on, he’s a Peter, ins’t he.

  • avatar

    Did Kia license that grille design from Kaiser-Frazer? U.G.L.Y.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought I recognized that grille from somewhere. I don’t know if it goes with the look of the Kia, but I sure like it on the Kaiser.

      So does this mean Kia is moving away from the “dumbell” shaped grille that they stole from 1965-66 fullsize Dodge?

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I think the Avalon’s grille is worse. It looks like the front part of one of those Thermo King cooling units you see atop a delivery truck. Which is a shame, ’cause otherwise the rest of the car is not bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        Agree the Avalon grill is much worse, at least the Kia grill is normal and not exaggerated. Recent Toyota vehicles are among the ugliest on the road. Toyota was trying to compensate for boring but I prefer the boring to what they have now.

    • 0 avatar

      And yet it looks sooo much better than the Toyota.

  • avatar

    People are test driving the new 2018 Camry and diving straight for the (attractively discounted) K-platform Avalon. That’s my hot take for the day.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I will say that the new Cadenza looks, feels, and drives better than the LaCrosse, although I have not tested the Avenir variant or the optional HiPer Strut system. And the LaCrosse offers AWD; the Cadenza does not.

    But Toyota brought its A-game with that new Avalon. It’s a bonus that the hybrid only represents a $1,000 leap from the V6 in all guises, meaning you’ll make your money back pretty quickly.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    How anyone buys the current Big Mouth Bass look Toyotas is a mystery to me.

    If I found a fish that ugly on the end of my line I would throw it back in the water.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I’m interested in a Cadenza but there are only a handful in a 150 mile radius. Heck, I’d even like to test drive a stinger, but there are only two handfuls of those in a 150 mile radius. Want an Optima with the 1.6T? Good luck with that too. I honestly don’t see how Kia sells anything other than CUVs and regular Optimas. I live between Nashville and Birmingham, and the picking are very slim on some models and some trims.

  • avatar

    Cadenza’s are as rare as hens teeth in my parts. Finding one sitting on a dealer’s lot is next to impossible most of the time but if you do see any it will be one loaded model for well over 40K. 2.4 Optima’s and CUV’s are all over the place.

    And is it any surprise that the Avalon is picking up a few sales from the new Camry when most every V6 XLE and XSE I saw was priced just shy of 40K! Personally I would pick the Cadenza or Lacrosse or Impala over the Camry or Avalon if given the choice for several reasons starting with the amount of money and repairs our long time family friend has had to stick in there 2012 Avalon after 60K miles

  • avatar

    The Kia is a nice enough looking car. Since the Fusion is to be no more we might have to look at one, or move up a size class to a Charger. But not the Hellcat that our daughter would prefer.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I keep wanting to call the Cadenza a Credenza even though its a car and not a piece of office furniture. I like the car but it is a funny name for a car.

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