What do the Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta all have in common? Well, actually, lots. They are all four-door sedans that fall into the so-called C-segment, and they are all trending downward in sales. This data comes courtesy of Wards Auto, and, while not all such vehicles are down – the Hyunai Elantra has been trending upward – the deficit reportedly rings in at six-percent overall for the segment.

Where are all those compact sedan buyers going? To compact SUVs, at least in part. Wards cites data showing that sales of small SUVs and crossovers are up big over the last several months. Vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 are all showing sales increases as buyers shift from sedans to utility vehicles, says Wards.

Still, it's way too early for automakers to give up on C-segment sedans. Though down, sales of popular models like the Civic and Corolla are good enough to put them well into the top 10 sales chart (in ninth and sixth place, respectively).


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  • 112 Comments
      njss
      • 9 Months Ago
      The other problem is that the next segment up (Accord, Camry, Altima, etc.) now has highway mileage only two or three MPGs below the C segment cars. So, the C segment cars are stuck between a rock (D segment) and a hard place (small CUVs). Plus they are further squeezed by the advances in B segment (Fit, Yaris, etc.) cars. Basically, there are two types of people who buy smaller vehicles. The first are those who drive-in from exurbia and log 60+ miles per day, thus benefiting higher fuel mileage. They tend to be two car households. Second are the those "Hoboken Types", young urban dwellers who value cost, cargo space (this is their only vehicle), and ease of parking. as much or more than mileage, because they really don't drive as much. Current demographic trends show that over time the second group will become more important than the first. It is going to be interesting to see how well the next generation of three-cylinder hatchbacks does with this second group.
      orchestral.whips
      • 9 Months Ago
      Roominess equates to comfort, and it's cheaper to gain space by going up rather than going out. Housing or vehicles, same difference!
      FuelToTheFire
      • 9 Months Ago
      This proves again and again that Americans DO NOT want small cars. They were not designed for American roads and conditions in mind. Americans drive more than anyone else, and we are bigger, so we need bigger cars to be comfortable. That's perfectly fine. Automakers should stop pretending that we are Europe. We aren't. That's why small cars have failed here. On the other hand, sales of SUVs, minivans, conversion vans, and large sedans are ALL up, because they are comfortable cruisers, and that's what we like.
        Txdesign
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        "We are bigger". No, we aren't bigger. Many simply eat themselves bigger and then complain that they can't fit into these "tiny" cars.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Txdesign
          And what is wrong with that, may I ask? Do you expect us to starve ourselves in order to appease ignorant peasant commoners like you? We Americans have statistically been big boned, and if we eat more, then we are not afraid to spend our own money which we worked hard for good, nourishing, hearty food, unlike the bland health-washed garbage which Europeans have to put up with. I'm in the drive-thru at Chick Fil-A as I type this. Believe me, I couldn't care less what you or anyone else thinks..
        GR
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        I disagree. American demand is very dependent on variables such as fuel prices and the general economy. Let's not forget when the 2008 economic crisis unraveled, nearly all auto makers tanked and the Big 3 nearly went bankrupt. However, a few did fine and made profit when everyone else was in the red. These two brands were Mini and Subaru. Both specialize in small cars with engines no bigger than 6 cylinders. In the years that followed, small cars became popular because they were cheap to own and operate. Even the American brands that once used to make bottom-rung compacts focused on them and gave us the Focus, Cruze, and Dart not to mention subcompacts. Now that the economy is more stable and fuel prices have gone down while fuel efficient technology has been better implemented, more Americans are considering bigger cars. However, keep in mind that the article is talking about small CUVs being in favor of compacts. Many of these CUVs ride on these compact cars' chassis and aren't all that much bigger in reality.
          Actionable Mango
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          Subaru does not "specialize in small cars". Only the BRZ and Impreza/WRX are small cars. The Legacy is not small. The Forester, Crosstrek, Tribeca, and Outback are SUVs and CUVs.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          Ummm, the cars which we have today were developed around 2007-2009. These automakers have done tons of reasearh with focus groups and their existing customers and found that most buyers of large cars were unwilling to transition to smaller cars. That's why they still exist. The Expedition, Explorer, Traverse, Durango, Sequoia,, Grand Cherokee, Tahoe, Suburban, Escalade, Yukon, Navigator, Q7, GL, Enclave, Land Cruiser, LX, MDX, QX, and Range Rover are ALL still here and selling strongly. If our auto industry was as dependent on fuel prices as you claim, they would 't be here in the first place. Mini and Subaru combined sell,what, 100 k a year? That's a tiny debt in the market. And the new compacts are actually worse than the traditional American ones. The Ford Escort, Chevy Cavalier, Chrysler Pt Cruiser, Dodge Neon, and Pontiac Grand Am were all good small cars. They were comfortable, dependable, cheap, and had some character. They new, globalized compacts, with the possible exception of the Cruze, are a DIASATER. The New Focus has had reliability issues from day one and is extremely uncomfortable and cramped inside, while being overpriced. The Dart is a horrible mismatch of the worst from America and Europe and its dismal sales show that. An updated Chevrolet 2005 Cavalier with a direct injection 2.2 making 160 hp or a 3.8 making 220 hp would be WORLDS better than anything we have today in the compact car class
        Terry Actill
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Most people drive in urban areas and have almost no real need to drive huge suvs, conversion vans and large sedans especially with ever rising gas prices. Small sedans serve a purpose and we are not effing stupid.
          Terry Actill
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Terry Actill
          You are a tad unhinged if you really believe the majority of Americans do not live in urban areas. And if you have a fat butt I'd suggest exercise and a diet change.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Terry Actill
          No, moron, most Americans do NOT live in urban areas, nor do they wish to. If you can afford to buy a car, you can afford to buy the car's gas. It's as simple as that. And Americans like to be comfortable. Comfort for the average big bones American requires a large car.
        mylexicon
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        If you'd read the source article, you'd see that compact CUV sales are surging.
        scooter
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        They sell over a million cars in this segment in the USA every year, that is not exactly a failure! But thanks for painting with a such a broad brush.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @scooter
          God, some people are so effing STUPID! Did you even read the article? Didn't you read that the sales of EVRY small car have gone down, while the sales of SUV's have gone UP? A million cars is hardly aren't in the world's biggest market for automobiles, and the only reason that the number is 't lower is because in this stagnating economy of "hope" and "change", that's all people can afford. I can GUARANTEE you that if those people had a choice, they would opt for bigger cars. That's what I effing thought. Come back when you have something intelligent to say.
        CH
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        @FuelToTheFire Let me help you with the numbers of non-luxury vehicles sold Feb year to date by segment: Sales in thousands Small Cars (compact and smaller) 395 Small SUVs/CUVs/Tall Wagons 428 Midsize Cars 363 Midsize SUVs/CUVs/Tall Wagons 263 Large Cars 83 Large SUVs 26 Minivans (all sizes) 72 As you can see, small vehicles (compact and smaller cars, SUVs, CUVs, hatchbacks, wagons), are the majority of the total vehicles sold in the U.S. Large vehicles and minivan are a small percent of the total.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @CH
          Thanks for proving my point. 428+263+26= 717. Add large cars and minivans (if not midsize cars) and that shows that over half of our automotive market is highway cruisers. Do the math ,imbecile
          CH
          • 9 Months Ago
          @CH
          @FuelToTheFire American buy more small than midsize cars and nearly four times as many small as large cars. American buy 16% more small SUVs than midsize SUVs and over 16 time as many small as large SUVs. This proves without a doubt that Americans prefer bigger cars and SUVs. Similarly, the sun rises in the west, slavery equals freedom, and up is down.
        eye.surgeon
        • 9 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        I agree. Too many car enthusiasts don't appreciate that different environments stimulate preferences for different types of cars. A F150 would not make much sense in downtown Brussels and frankly a Fiat 500 is equally dysfunctional in much of middle America. It doesn't mean one sensibility is better than the other.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @eye.surgeon
          A Fiat 500 in Middle America is a serious safety concern. An F150 in Brussels isn't, and is completely manageable if you know what you're doing. Otherwise, they wouldn't have Sprinters and Transits over there. My cousins in England own 2 American cars. One of them is a Vauxhall Sintra(rebadged Chevy Venture) and the other is a BUICK PARK AVENUE (if you think I'm lying, google "euro spec buick". They used to sell them there in the 90's). I can't say that either of these cars is completely troubl-free driving around crowded Euro streets, but they manage somehow.
      mylexicon
      • 9 Months Ago
      The US auto market has a strange fetish with low-profile tires and sport suspension packages for sedans. Both features ruin the ride quality. Customers do not make the same demands in the compact SUV segment. The premium CUV trim packages usually have ample sidewall and suspension travel to soak up the bumps on our rough roads.
        ferps
        • 9 Months Ago
        @mylexicon
        It does seem like your choices these days are either car that will bend rims and scrape the door against the curb when you parallel park, or an SUV that weighs more, get poor mileage and doesn't handle well.
        raughle1
        • 9 Months Ago
        @mylexicon
        Interesting point! I'd never thought of it in these terms before. Of course, the CX-5 grand touring (probably the only one of these entry level CUVs I'd buy...except maybe the Escape) rolls on skinny sidewall 19s, so it's not universally true.
      ferps
      • 9 Months Ago
      Small sedans don't make much sense, sacrificing a lot of practicality. Americans seem to be allergic to hatchbacks, so compact crossovers seem like a good bet. Ford should look at selling the EcoSport here.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ferps
        Um, no. It is hatchbacks which are impractical. Sedans have more trunk area. Hatches are claustrophobic. You need to pile things on top of each other for them to fit. And I don't feel comfortable doing that.
        razorpit
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ferps
        I'm so tired of seeing this. Once again, Americans are not allergic to hatchbacks. The SUV's mentioned here are hatchbacks. Americans are allergic to sh*tty little cars which Europe has to drive. Sure some of them are fun, I loved my VR6 GTi, But getting a new one and trying to get two car seats with a weeks worth of stuff for a 10 hour drive just isn't fun. There are so many better alternatives available.
      normc32
      • 9 Months Ago
      Encore, Encore, Encore!
        icemilkcoffee
        • 9 Months Ago
        @normc32
        You mean, the AMC Renault Encore? I am sure that's the answer to everything!
      • 9 Months Ago
      [blocked]
        GR
        • 9 Months Ago
        Probably. It's what happened in the JDM and that's why the Civic is no longer sold in Japan. However, I doubt the Civic is actually threatened to extinction in the US like it was in Japan.
          raughle1
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          "I'd rather that some moron who hit my kid die than my kid die. It's as simple as that. You don't have a family, do you?" You just finished saying that young drivers are the least experienced. So in fact, your kid is the one more likely to be at fault in this theoretical accident. What you meant is, "I'd rather that some guy/gal/family hit by my kid die than my own kid die."
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          Younger people should NOT be driving small cars. They are less experienced and more likely to get into a crash. In a crash, what is the best vehicle to be in? That's right, an SUV A used Suburban is an excellent first car, and that's what my kids will drive when they come of age.
          FuelToTheFire
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          Um, no. You can't write your own laws of physics. A bigger vehicle will ALWAYS fare better in the outcome of a crash. And rollovers are a red herring:modern SUVs have technologies which makes rollovers virtually impossible. I'd rather that some moron who hit my kid die than my kid die. It's as simple as that. You don't have a family, do you?
          GR
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          hokkaido, Go pick up a JDM car magazine, assuming you read Japanese or can make out the gist of what they are saying. If you know the JDM, this is not really contested that the Fit did the Civic in. Fuel, Your argument is based on a lot of myths. Go look at crash tests and fatality rates. Actual data, not your conceived notions of how things work. The safest cars are large sedans and minivans, not SUVs. Also, you kid killing someone in a SUV they can't handle may leave them alive, but your family destroyed by lawsuits in civil court. Also, your comments in general don't make much sense. A lot of people have called you out on this.
        flammablewater
        • 9 Months Ago
        You hit -5 in under an hour. I've never seen someone voted down so quick for such an uncontroversial comment.
          • 9 Months Ago
          @flammablewater
          [blocked]
      Schmi5f5
      • 9 Months Ago
      so make more wagons please, we clearly want more utility
        icemilkcoffee
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Schmi5f5
        Amen. The sedan format is simply not all that useful. Even a hatchback is more versatile and useful than a sedan.
        RGT881
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Schmi5f5
        Indeed. I think having a family akin to what Golf has in Europe would be wise. At the end of the day, as long as the product is generating healthy profit-per-unit margins then who cares, build it. It would be stupid to kill a C-Segmen car and focus solely on a compact SUV. No smart company ought to place its eggs in one basket.
      DRAGON
      • 9 Months Ago
      Not surprising SUV are selling better because roads in America are in such a bad shape...
        BahamaTodd
        • 9 Months Ago
        @DRAGON
        ...and larger heavier vehicles only make it worse. The solution to handling bad roads are smaller wheels / taller sidewalls.
      canuckcharlie
      • 9 Months Ago
      This trend can be reversed by offering AWD/hatch on the C-Segment.
      carguy1701
      • 9 Months Ago
      Because high ground clearance totally means it can handle any kind of weather condition and doesn't have a negative affect on handling.
        eye.surgeon
        • 9 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        Not everyone needs a daily driver capable of rally-crossing. Remember, we are car enthusiasts. A to B type drivers need cars too, and they have different needs than we do.
        graphikzking
        • 9 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        Weather 99% of the time isn't a factor but ground clearance for VISION is a huge help! When you have 10' tall Jeeps and F150's driving around, every inch counts. It's tough to see when a damn MONSTER truck pulls up next to you. Doesn't really matter if your in a Mazda3 or CX5 but it's just a pain that they make these things so big. My dad bought a Tacoma because he wanted a truck to pickup simpler things but didn't want something that was a pain to park etc. Every question I get after purchasing for him "why didn't you just buy a Tundra, Ram, Silverado etc". I'm like because it will cost him roughly $700 more per year i gas, more in insurance, not be able to park it in his garage, 11' less turning radius which makes it more easily driven in tight areas, trying to find a parking spot downtown would be a nightmare in a full size pickup. Their response, "but aren't they the same price, so you get more for your money". I'm an American, born and bred, but WTF some people are just dense stupid and need to be saved from their own stupidity. Back on topic - I do think that the added bad weather that more people have been getting more people are electing for AWD and since that is only available in the small CUV's (for the most part) more people are purchasing CUV's. Also higher CUV's are MUCH easier to get in/out of for older people because they are their exact height. No step up/down to get into like the old days.
          creamwobbly
          • 9 Months Ago
          @graphikzking
          I was nearly a victim of someone who'd accidentally bought a vehicle too big for them. Could. Not. Park. Nearly reversed over my car. It's pretty simple: introduce new driver licensing requirements for vehicles where one of the linear dimensions is greater than some sensible limit. Don't leave it to the insurance companies, because some just don't buy their insurance.
          Terry Actill
          • 9 Months Ago
          @graphikzking
          If everybody started driving taller vehicles then the advantage of visibility would diminish.
      throwback
      • 9 Months Ago
      Considering the weather we have had over the last 3 months I am not suuprised they are all down in sales. When you are battling through your 3rd or 4th or more, snow storm and looking to buy a new car, a CRV looks a whole lot more appealing than a Civic.
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