Quality Magazine

Family Sedans Sell While Sports Cars Stumble

May 25, 2010

SANTA MONICA, CA - Would you rather drive a sports car or a family sedan? Edmunds’ AutoObserver.com reports that cautious car buyers re-entering the market are largely gravitating to midsize sedans while most sports cars are barely moving off the dealership lots.

“Speculation has long held that crossovers would cause serious erosion of the midsize sedan market, but sedans are remarkably popular with car-buyers today,” says Edmunds’ AutoObserver.com Senior Editor Bill Visnic in his full report on the subject. “April and year-to-date sales show the segment on its way to perhaps some of its best results in a long while.”

Data from Edmunds.com indicate that midsize cars currently account for 17.8% of total U.S. market share. It had been as low as 13.3% in 2005, and has gained every year since, in part because of compelling new offerings in the segment.

Honda Accord and Toyota Camry retain their positions as best-sellers, but much of the segment’s largest gains came from two less-established models: the 2010 Ford Fusion is up over 50% over last year and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata is up 34% over last year.

The redesigned Subaru Legacy is perhaps the most remarkable contributor, with an 87% increase over last year. Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Passat are also generating relatively strong sales results.

And what about the sexier sports car segment? “Muscle cars are moving okay, but the rest of the sports car market is stuck in neutral,” says Visnic. “A 1,000-unit-per-month pace for a given sports car is becoming the norm, leaving some to wonder how long some automakers will - or can - support such frivolities, the cost-saving advantages of increased platform-sharing notwithstanding.”

On the bright side, the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang are in a healthy sales race, and the Dodge Challenger had a record sales month in April.

But far more common are stories of challenging days. In 2009, Chevrolet’s Corvette endured its worst sales year in 50 years, and so far this year, sales are down even further. Mazda Miata is experiencing among the lowest sales in the brand’s 20-year history and the barely-selling Mazda RX-8 may soon be discontinued. Sales of the Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster, the Nissan 370Z and the Nissan GT-R are down over 40% year-over-year – and 2009 is a terrible point of comparison. Every Porsche is down from last year as well.