Dueling Compacts: Two Class Leaders Manage a Win in 2019
Not that long ago, we posited that the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic would buck the declining passenger car trend and eke out a sales win in 2019. Several things were working in the models’ favor — name recognition, diversity of choice, and the elimination of domestic rivals.
In this market, in this era, breaking even counts as a win. And that’s just what the Corolla and Civic did last year.
Now that most manufacturers have rolled out full-year U.S. sales results (we’ll have a full tally for you Monday, once Ford gets its act together), we can see that the Civic neither increased or decreased its volume in 2019, at least in terms of percentage. Static at 0.0 percent, Civic volume amounted to 325,650 units — some 110 vehicles below 2018’s total. So, technically a loss, but too small of one to even register as such.
Helping the Civic in 2019 was the continued production of three bodystyles and several power flavors, including the very desirable mid-pack Si. Content received a boost for 2020. The model’s high water mark came in 2017, when Civic sold over 377,000 vehicles in the U.S.
As low-end buyers coped with the loss of the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze, both offered as a hatch or sedan, Japanese automakers stood to gain disenfranchised customers in search of a new brand. Toyota seized upon the opportunity to boost appeal by rolling out a new Corolla hatch for MY2019, followed a year later by an equally revamped sedan boasting a new platform and upgraded power. In your author’s neighborhood, the 2020 model proliferated overnight. Joining it was a hybrid variant aimed at eco-conscious shoppers who dislike the idea of piloting a Prius.
With 2019 at an end, we can see that the effort paid off. Corolla sales rose 0.4 percent to 304,850 units, making it the only Toyota-badged passenger car to see a yearly gain (the Camry sunk 1.9 percent, which is hardly a death blow, and the returning Supra doesn’t count).
Drawing back a bit, Honda’s U.S. business saw sales rise 0.2 percent, comprising a 0.3-percent climb at the namesake brand and a 1-percent drop at Acura. Toyota volume declined 1.8 percent, overall, with the Toyota brand falling 2 percent and the Lexus brand slipping by a nearly imperceptible 0.1 percent.
[Images: Toyota, Honda]
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