The mix-up in the hotly contested midsize sedan segment seems to be over as Japanese manufacturers recover volume. The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which had been in short supply in the wake of the March 11th earthquake in Japan, have regained the foothold as the leaders of the segment. They are, however, being closely chased by the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, and Nissan Altima.
The Perennial Leaders
Sales of the Toyota Camry were 22,043 in October, representing a decline of 8.5 percent year-over-year. That brings the car’s year-to-date sales to 251,564, which is similarly 8.8 percent below the pace set last year. However, the Camry is on track for sales to recover as inventory increases. Moreover, the launch of the 2012 model is expected to draw more customers to dealerships.
“The all-new 2012 Camry launch is off to a great start,” said Toyota Motor Sales vice president Bob Carter. The company has 35,000 units of the 2012 Camry en route to dealerships as of writing.
The Honda Accord had been hit much harder by the Japanese supply crisis: at the end of September, its annual sales total was down 16.1 percent compared to the first nine months of 2010. In October, however, a greater supply of vehicles meant monthly Accord sales jumped to 22,589 — up 9.4 percent versus a year prior. That brings the car’s cumulative sales tally to 203,603 so far this year, down only 13.8 percent from the first ten months of 2010.
“As dealer inventories continued to replenish in October, we saw increased momentum over last month’s sales,” said Honda vice president of sales John Mendel.
Hot on the heels of the Japanese champions are the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Nissan Altima. Last month, sales of the Fusion and Altima outpaced that of the struggling Accord. This month, the traditional order of midsize sales volume has been resumed as Accord volume recovered. The Nissan Altima took third place in the midsize wars, with 21,838 monthly sales representing a 15.1 percent year-over-year gain.
The Hyundai Sonata followed with 18,192 monthly sales, a gain of about 4 percent over October 2010. The Sonata has experienced year-over-year sales growth of nearly 16 percent, with 192,953 cars sold through the first ten months of 2011.
Finally, the Ford Fusion saw sales climb 4.2 percent to 18,094 units. While that’s far below the competition for October, year-to-date sales of 206,533 are up 15.4 percent versus a year prior, which puts the Fusion on track for record-setting sales this year.
The Lower Rungs
Even though they can’t keep up with the heady numbers of competitors, midsize sedans from Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Volkswagen are still enjoying sales gains this year.
Although sales slipped slightly last month, dropping 17.1 percent to just 10,239 cars, the Malibu is still on track for a strong sales year. So far this year it has sold 181,505 units, up 3.4 percent over the same period in 2010. That makes the Malibu the third best-selling Chevrolet of the year, after the Silverado pickup and Cruze sedan. A new version of the Malibu is set to debut in early 2012, but the car’s imminent arrival doesn’t appear to be hurting sales of the current car.
“We’re on track to beating our [Malibu] sales figures for last year,” Chevrolet spokesman Dave Darovitz told us last month.
Chrysler Group’s mechanical twins, the 200 and Avenger, also are enjoying healthy sales this year, even if their overall volumes lag behind segment leaders. The Chrysler 200 sold 11,205 cars last month, up 405 percent over the car’s predecessor a year prior, and bringing the 200’s yearly total to 69,755 cars. Last year, the car’s predecessor — the Chrysler Sebring — sold just 35,827 units through October 2010. The Dodge Avenger has likewise seen an explosive growth over last year, with October sales of 7136 cars bringing it to 52,164 total units this year — up 17 percent over the same period in 2010.
Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said the sales gain can primarily be attributed to the fact that the two sedans were redesigned in late 2010. She said customers are now more impressed with the cars’ levels of interior quality, and with the improved ride and handling. On top of that, Chrysler cut the prices of both cars for 2011, making the sedans a better deal for customers. “For the value and what you’re getting, these vehicles are really attractive,” Graham said.
Finally, the new Volkswagen Passat, designed specifically for the U.S. market and built in Tennessee, helped the nameplate record 5040 sales last month — a gain of 986 percent year-over-year and bringing total sales this year to 9877, up 2.1 percent versus the same period in 2010.
Sources: Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen