Two Large Front-drive Cars Buck the Sales Trend

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.)

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Unlike the Kia, however, there’s a good financial reason to go looking for a soon-to-be-outdated Avalon.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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on May 03, 2018

    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.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 04, 2018

    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.

  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).
  • Lou_BC There are a few in my town. They come out on sunny days. I'd rather spend $29k on a square body Chevy
  • Lou_BC I had a 2010 Ford F150 and 2010 Toyota Sienna. The F150 went through 3 sets of brakes and Sienna 2 sets. Similar mileage and 10 year span.4 sets tires on F150. Truck needed a set of rear shocks and front axle seals. The solenoid in the T-case was replaced under warranty. I replaced a "blend door motor" on heater. Sienna needed a water pump and heater blower both on warranty. One TSB then recall on spare tire cable. Has a limp mode due to an engine sensor failure. At 11 years old I had to replace clutch pack in rear diff F150. My ZR2 diesel at 55,000 km. Needs new tires. Duratrac's worn and chewed up. Needed front end alignment (1st time ever on any truck I've owned).Rear brakes worn out. Left pads were to metal. Chevy rear brakes don't like offroad. Weird "inside out" dents in a few spots rear fenders. Typically GM can't really build an offroad truck issue. They won't warranty. Has fender-well liners. Tore off one rear shock protector. Was cheaper to order from GM warehouse through parts supplier than through Chevy dealer. Lots of squeaks and rattles. Infotainment has crashed a few times. Seat heater modual was on recall. One of those post sale retrofit.Local dealer is horrific. If my son can't service or repair it, I'll drive 120 km to the next town. 1st and last Chevy. Love the drivetrain and suspension. Fit and finish mediocre. Dealer sucks.
  • MaintenanceCosts You expect everything on Amazon and eBay to be fake, but it's a shame to see fake stuff on Summit Racing. Glad they pulled it.