Toyota and Honda Have Good Reason Not to Abandon Sedans

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
toyota and honda have good reason not to abandon sedans

Ford’s already brought the axe down on all but one of its car models, and General Motors looks ready to do the same. Other automakers, however, know that ditching sedans would mean abandoning key groups of customers.

For Toyota and Honda, models like the Camry and Civic resonate far more among some demographics, and leaving that segment risks losing those buyers to other brands. Not everyone wants a crossover. Among Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans, four Japanese nameplates keep popping up at the top of the most-bought list, but one domestic model poses a growing threat.

You’ve probably already guessed the identity of that domestic model. It is, after all, the world’s best-selling vehicle: the Ford F-150.

In a study of who buys what, IHS Markit (via Automotive News) mapped out the market share of individual models among different demographics, revealing just how important the sedan is to Toyota and Honda.

Industrywide, the F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram 1500 topped U.S. new vehicle sales through the end of April, with the Toyota RAV4 and Honda Civic in fourth and fifth place. Together, those five nameplates make up 15.2 percent of all sales. Break it down into identity groups, however, and the trucks (mainly) take a hike.

Among women, the RAV4 and Honda CR-V take the top two spots, followed by the Civic, Camry, and Chevrolet Equinox. Asian buyers? The top two spots stay the same, and the Camry and Civic change places in the order of things. The Honda Accord muscles into fifth place.

It’s a sensible, dependable, small car bonanza among Hispanic buyers, though the top five isn’t without its cargo carriers. Within this demographic, the Civic, Camry, and Corolla take gold, silver, and bronze. In fourth place is the RAV4, followed by the Silverado.

You’ll find the Camry sitting pretty at the top of African-American buyers’ shopping lists, but the F-150 occupies second place. The seemingly can-do-no-wrong pickup is gaining ground in this demographic, IHS Markit claims, threatening the dominance of Toyota’s midsizer. In third place among African-Americans is the Accord, followed by the Civic and Nissan Sentra.

Depending on the demographic, certain cities make up the bulk of a model’s sales. Nissan picks up 30 percent of its Hispanic Sentra sales in Los Angeles. Places like Atlanta and Chicago are crucial for the selling of sedans to African-American customers. We’ve touched on this before — Ford has difficulty selling to Hispanics, and Southerners in general seem wary of Subaru, so much so that it’s top of mind in the brand’s new global product strategy.

Without this kind of brand loyalty on their side, automakers like Ford feel it’s okay to erase the board and try again at the lower end of the market. That just leaves OEMs like Toyota and Honda with the opportunity to snap up buyers abandoned by their brand — in the short-term, anyway.

Speaking to Automotive News, Marc Bland, IHS Markit’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, said cars “still have a real place” in the market.

“The brands that are offering the most choice, I think, are going to win in the long run because of this freedom of choice,” he said.

[Image: Honda, Toyota]

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  • George B George B on Aug 13, 2018

    For Toyota and Honda, the Camry, Corolla, Accord, and Civic sedans are their core competency plus they make CUVs using some of the same platforms. Makes sense for Honda to develop the Civic and CR-V in parallel. I think Ford is making a mistake in ending production of the current Fusion and Focus cars. The Fusion is good enough to be competitive as is and the Focus only needs a better automatic transmission. They're noticeably better than Ford cars from the past. They should be able to develop the Escape and Focus in parallel and sell both in many separate markets around the world.

  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Aug 13, 2018

    Honda and Toyota have no choice, they built and own this marketshare and can't abandon it. They'd love to own in truck and SUV sales, but don't have the brands to match the Detroit 3 in those segments. They spent decades investing in the core sedan markets which they now basically control, only to have profitability eroded. It will be interesting to see what they do with their cars, but you can bet that they will figure out every way possible to shift their car buyers into crossovers.

  • El scotto Will this die a dignified and somber death? Sadly I predict a massive collision between greed, venality, and stupidity to occur. Huge Additional Dealer Markups (ADM)? Of course. Flippers will pay the ADM. Those paying the flippers over the ADM will smugly confirm "they know what they've got". The last owner not realizing that in 20 years their target "Last V-8 Camaro" audience will be between 70 and Dead.Mid-engine Corvette? Just get a Porsche or a Lotus and be done with it. Whatever LS they put in the Camaro might be seen in Silverados which will be sold at a higher profit.Hemi-powered Challengers and Chargers are dead. Well, OK after 18, 484 special editions. Hemi-powered Rams? Not too many buy a second one.Ford will double down on stupidity by raising MSRPs on every Mustang and Ford dealers will ask serious money for a non-serious car. Once Mustangs get expensive enough people will drive performance Japanese and German iron and like it. Three truly sad and ignoble deaths for cars once coveted by the jeans jacket, domestic beer, and Aerosmith t-shirts set.
  • CoastieLenn So the Camaro is getting the axe, the Challenger is belly up, the Charger is also fading out of existence. Maaaaan Michigan better have a game plan on how to inject some soul back into the American carscape. The Mustang and Corvette can't do it on their own. Dark times we're living in, bro's. How long do you think it'll be before the US starts to backpedal on our EV mandates now that the EU has rolled back their ICE bans with synthetic fuel usage?
  • Duke Woolworth We have old school Chevrolet Bolts, only feasible to charge at home because they are so slow. Travel? Fly or rent luxury.
  • Styles I had a PHEV, and used to charge at home on a standard 3-pin plug (240v is standard here in NZ). As my vehicle is a company car I could claim the expense. Now we are between houses and living at the in-laws, and I'm driving a BEV, I'm charging either at work (we have a wall-box, and I'm the only one with an EV), or occasionally at Chargenet stations, again, paid by my employer.
  • Dwford 100% charge at home.