Americans Might Not Even Buy 1.4 Million Midsize Cars This Year; Market Share Down By Half Since Recession

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
americans might not even buy 1 4 million midsize cars this year market share down by

Remember the midsize sedan death watch?

When TTAC introduced the series, Americans were still acquiring over 2 million midsize cars per year. That fact, the 2M+ aspect of the segment and

Leading up to that economic collapse, 16 percent of the U.S. automotive market’s volume was produced by midsize cars. That figure now stands at 8 percent.

In the last year alone, the midsize segment’s market share has fallen by more than half a percentage point. In a market that’s down less than 2 percent year-over-year, midsize volume is down nearly 7 percent through the first three-quarters of 2019.

It’s a drop caused by every member of the segment save for the departing Ford Fusion, where a dead cat bounce is causing an artificial spike at the end of the Fusion’s lifecycle.

Double-digit year-over-year percentage losses have been reported this year by vehicles such as the Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Legacy (down 16 percent), Mazda 6 (down 30 percent), and Volkswagen Passat (down 61 percent).

The class-leading trio (Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima) are among the most recently redesigned. But while their market share in the segment is rising – from 56 percent in 2018 to 59 percent in 2019 — their sales are also in decline. The Camry, Accord, and Altima combined to lose 22,000 sales over the last nine months.

In the face of blustery headwinds, numerous midsize carmakers are forging ahead with distinct strategies. Volkswagen’s Americanized Passat has suffered consecutive annual sales declines ever since its arrival in 2012. Volkswagen’s path forward is a lightly refreshed example of an aging car.

At Subaru, where Legacy sales have never been strong, a brand new model is launching now despite the fact that other automakers have fled the scene while producing more sales in a quarter than the Legacy can in a year.

And at Hyundai, the Sonata is reverting to a bold styling strategy. It worked for the sixth-gen Sonata in 2011, but the seventh-gen Sonata in 2015 was an overly cautious and forgettable attempt. Sonata sales tumbled 55 percent between 2012 and 2018, so Hyundai went back to the drawing board. Is it too late for the Sonata to recover?

For the Passat, 2019 is on track to be the worst year since 2012. Legacy sales are projected to fall to a new low (since before Outback/Legacy sales were isolated.) The Sonata’s drop will cause sales to fall below 100,000 units for the first time since 2003; it’ll be the first 5-digit Kia Optima sales year since 2011. Chevrolet Malibu sales are tracking toward a 16-year low. If Mazda’s 30-percent Mazda6 decline continues in Q4, 2019 will be the nameplate’s worst year ever.

And what about that top-tier trio? Revamped for 2020 with new powertrains and available all-wheel drive, the Nissan Altima is on pace for an 18-year U.S. sales low. If not for a disastrous, tsunami-inflicted 2011, the Honda Accord’s 276,000-unit 2019 tack would point the highly regarded Honda in the direction of early 80s output. In 13 of the last 20 years, Toyota has reported more than 400,000 U.S. Camry sales — Toyota is on pace for fewer than 340,000 in 2019. In the last two decades, only 2010 and 2011 stand out as lower-output years.

It’s disappointing individual results that explain how a segment could see its market share fall by half in a decade. The good news for lovers of the midsize category? The rate at which the segment is shedding market share has slowed noticeably. In 2015, the segment lost a full percentage point of share, and within two years another 2.4 points were gone. Between 2017 and 2018, midsize market share collapsed from 10.3 percent to 8.6 percent, a 17-percent decrease. 2019’s slide from is modest by comparison.

Yet, and this will come as no surprise, we still expect to see America’s midsize car category slip below 8 percent in 2020.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

[Images: Toyota, Honda]

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  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Oct 30, 2019

    I frequently drive my mom and aunt around and they have some mobility issues. Mom's hip is degrading and she's already had a knee replacement. I had a Mazda6 which was great, but with the hip and joint issues for my frequent passengers it got to be a challenge. I ended up getting a CX-5 which had everything I wanted, save a manual. The mileage penalty isn't too terrible and will likely improve as the vehicle breaks in.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 30, 2019

    @mikey--Good choice one of the best cars GM has made in recent years along with the LaCrosse. That is one reason I bought my neighbors low mileage 2012 LaCrosse Premium (45k miles) for 11k a one owner pampered car. I rented an Impala LTZ a few years ago and loved it to the point where I didn't want to return it. A lot of car for the money especially a used low mileage one. I also ordered WeatherTech laser cut mats front and back. I am 67.

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.
  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.