By on May 13, 2020

2018 Toyota Camry XSE - Image: Toyota CanadaAfter years of steady decline, including an 8-percent decrease in calendar year 2019, U.S. sales of midsize cars stabilized in the early part of 2020.

In a manner of speaking.

Like the overall market, midsize car sales in the first quarter of 2020 declined. But the segment’s decrease was only marginally worse than the decline reported by the overall market, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as the decreases reported elsewhere in the passenger car sector.

Meanwhile, at the top of the midsize heap, the Toyota Camry continued to improve its market share, expanding the size of its slice in a shrinking pie.

The decline of America’s once-favored midsize sedan market is thoroughly, perhaps infamously, chronicled here at TTAC. Near the end of 2019, we reported that the segment had lost half of its market share since the recession a decade prior, and that midsize sales may not top 1.4 million units in 2019.

The end result was 1.376 million sales for the midsize segment, a drop of 119,000 sales in a market that was down by roughly 211,000 sales. Midsize car market share dipped to 8 percent, the sixth consecutive year of market share decline.

Through the first three months of 2020, midsize car market share has actually held relatively steady just above 8 percent, a feat of remarkable strength given the wild declines reported by some members of the category.

No doubt, COVID-19’s March impact surely caused the knife to dig in deeper. Honda Accord sales fell 27 percent in 2020 Q1. The Hyundai Sonata was down 28 percent. Mazda 6 sales tumbled 35 percent. The Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat both lost more than one-fifth of their volume. Toyota Camry U.S. sales chart 2020 - Image: © TTACThe top-selling Toyota Camry, on the other hand, only fell slightly below 2019’s first-quarter sales pace. Faring much better than the auto industry at large, Camry sales dipped “just” 6 percent. The only car to fare better was the fifth-ranked Chevrolet Malibu, which ticked upward at a 3-percent clip.

If the Camry continues to outpace the segment by losing only a small portion of the previous year’s demand – and everything is a big if in during a pandemic – then 2020 will be seventh consecutive year in which Camry market share has improved.

Don’t mistake the market share growth for actual sales improvement. Camry sales have fallen 18 percent since that streak of market share growth began. Excluding recession-era sales in 2010 and the Tōhoku earthquake crisis of 2011, 2019 was the worst year for Camry volume in America since 1995. This is not a car that’s becoming more prevalent in American driveways. And it’s hard to imagine that any potential auto sales recovery in the second half of 2020, which hardly seems likely, will be irretrievably linked to a midsize car. Could 2020 be the first sub-300K U.S. sales year for the Toyota Camry since 1993? The first sub-250K sales year since 1988?

If so, 2020 will treat the Camry’s competitors even more harshly. Increasingly, America’s remaining midsize car buyers are Camry buyers. From 17 percent of the midsize segment in 2013, and with 10 active rivals remaining, the Camry is now garnering more than a quarter of the category’s interest.

[Image: Toyota]

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

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18 Comments on “Midsize Car Sales Weren’t Actually That Bad in the First Quarter; Toyota Camry Market Share Is Rising...”


  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I think the Camry looks great honestly. I also like the look of the Accord but less so, and I think the current Accord’s styling is too polarizing for the masses, especially in this segment. Honda kind of outsmarted themselves there I bit, I think.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the facelifted 2021 Accord looks like. If they can “normalize” it more, then it may eat into the Camry’s market share.

  • avatar
    hondaaustin

    I wonder how many potential Accord sales have been lost to competitors in the same showroom. Last month, when my lease was up on my TLX I of course considered an Accord, but the Civic was more compelling at a lower cost and with more than enough content.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      I imagine a few, at least. I owned a prior generation Accord for 5 years and my biggest complaint was it should have been about 10% smaller. Accords are now over 192″ long. A new Civic sedan is about 183″ long, which is nearly the same length as the 1993-97 Accord, and nearly 2.5 feet longer than the original Accord.

      Truthfully, if I had been looking for another sedan, a Civic Si would have suited my purposes just fine, and would have cost less while being easier to park.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I was wondering the same thing, hondaaustin. Camrys are major fleet queens.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    wonder if the Camry “rise” is mainly fleet, because it certainly is ugly

    the Accord looks like a much more expensive car and performs better

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Accord is the better midsize car. Camry appeals to broader customer base. AWD, yep. V6, yep. Obnoxious sport package with big wing, yep. Near luxury hybrid, or V6, or 4 cylinder, yep. And etc., etc..
    Sales success are welcome news for sedans in this pickup and SUV dominated automotive landscape.

  • avatar
    deanst

    The elimination of the fusion and Malibu will open up more room for camrys on the rental lots. (Whenever they get around to ordering new cars.)

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Legitimate question from somebody who doesn’t rent a lot of cars. Is our rental fleet still relying primarily on sedans? Why don’t they switch to CUVs to reflect the tastes of the masses?

      I recall last time when I rented a vehicle, crossovers like the RAV4 and CR-V were available. So you would think the laws of supply and demand would cause the rental companies to switch to more CUVs if that’s what people wanted to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Short answer…kind of. You will still see rows of Jettas, Camrys, Impalas, CTS/CT5, Fortes, and Altimas, all in the (midwestern, non Chicago) range of $30-$40/day. However, you now see a fair supply of Renegades, RAV-4s, Rogues, Highlanders, and (at least at SDF airport on a weekend) – an Evoque or similar through Hertz for $45/weekend day. The normal crossovers cost the same, or in the case of a Rogue, a little less than a similar sedan.

        The Camrys are everywhere. The Corolla and Fortes are right behind. I don’t see as many newer Altimas as I thought, except at Enterprise.

        So, nutshell, similar price so it’s what you want to drive and what kind of fuel economy you want to get. The huge crossovers/SUVs (think Tahoes +and above, or anything European above an Evoque – I’ve seen X5s) at what I price are in the $80+/weekend day.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          Thanks. I find that very interesting. If Americans have the unquenchable thirst for crossovers as this site reports pretty much on a daily basis, you’d think the sedans would languish on the rental lots and gradually be replaced by the CUVs people wanted to drive.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            People don’t usually bring their dogs, their bicycles, plants, 100 ft^3 of Costco crap nor concerns about whether the neighbor thinks they look like they lead an “active lifestyle” with them, on trips requiring renting a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      deanst

      The Malibu’s life cycle won’t be up until 2023. The way things are going, GM may decide to keep the Malibu, and kill Nissan instead.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      We had a Fusion as a rental and I can say it is no big loss. This was disappointing since it was on my radar for our next sedan. They are handsome on the outside but the seats were just killer. The lower cushion is too short. Our rental was a hybrid and only did 4mpg better than our current sedan over a couple weeks of driving.

      That said, those of us looking for another sedan are running out of choices. The new Camry is the worst looking car out in a long time, save for the Avalon, but it was never a car I would consider anyway.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Has Honda fixed the issue of the 1.5 liter turbo mixing its fuel with its oil?

  • avatar
    bd2

    Hyundai has cut back sharply on fleet sales for the new Sonata (highest ATP in the segment) so someone had to be picking up the slack (before C-19 tanked fleet sales).

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    The new Camry gets terrific fuel economy. I’ve seen 44 mpg easy on the open road. Around the suburbs, 27-20 mpg. And it’s comfortable enough I needed a car for long trips. This sucker delivers. The high-zoot styling will probably date badly but for right now I’m happy with it.

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