So far this year, midsize sedans are thriving in showrooms.
Consumers are making them the best-selling cars of any segment in the auto industry, capturing 27.4 percent of the overall market, according to a study released this week by Experian Automotive.
The rising tide of the segment has helped crown a new automotive king in the United States – at least halfway through 2012. The Toyota Camry is the country’s top-selling car, selling approximately 209,000 units, according to vehicle registration data. The Camry replaces the Ford F150 pickup in the top spot. The F150 has sold 202,000 units.
The shift between the two underscores some of the forces shaping the national economy.
Midsize sedans have appealed to customers seeking a combination of space and fuel efficiency amid gas-price volatility. Construction of new homes, always a key driver of pickup truck sales, remains slack.
Another key factor in the Camry’s ascension is the sheer number of models within the midsize segment that have undergone redesigns or are undergoing redesigns in recent months: the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu Volkswagen Passat and Camry have all seen extensive changes, and the revamped Honda Accord is set to hit dealerships in a matter of weeks.
"Higher gas prices and new model redesigns could be pushing consumers to look at small to mid-range cars instead of the larger vehicle segments," said Jeffrey Anderson, director of consulting and analytics for Experian.
Here’s a look at some of the other mid-year sales winners:
Truck: Ford F-150
Sales Through June 2012: 202,000
MSRP: $23,500 - $52,305
Invoice: $22,100 - $47,124
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 23 mpg Highway
The news isn’t all bad for the Ford 150. It still is showing healthy sales, and it remains solidly in the No. 2 overall sales position. And if you want to look at the competition as some sort of automotive version of the electoral college, the F150 won a head-to-head matchup with the Camry in 19 states, and Texas made up 17 percent of its overall sales.
The Camry took 13 states head to head, with California claiming 13 percent of its sales.
The Ford F150 always remains a top contender in large part because of its consistency and continual upgrades. "Last year, we upgraded our powertrains and this year, we’re adding some new technology to the F-150," said Doug Scott, head of marketing for Ford trucks. "It keeps our pickups really fresh."
It's important to note that Experian's analysis is based off vehicle registration data. Ford does not release specific sales figures of individual F-Series models on a month-by-month basis.
Compact Car: Honda Civic
Sales Through June 2012: 162,582
MSRP: $15,755 - $26,305
Invoice: $14,661 - $24,943
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 36 mpg Highway
You might view the Civic as a midsize sedan that ranks second in the segment in sales or as a smaller car that ranks as the top-selling smaller car. It doesn’t really matter. On the overall score sheet, the Civic ranks third in overall sales through the first half of this year.
Its sales have increased substantially this year, according to Autodata Corp., partly because Honda has recovered from last year’s Japanese catastrophe, and partly because the Civic’s EPA-estimated 36 mpg are attracting fuel-conscious buyers.
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Luxury Car: BMW 3 Series
Sales Through June 2012: 46,236
MSRP: $34,900 - $47,600
Invoice: $32,290 - $43,970
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway
Six generations into its lifespan, the BMW 3 Series is still the one to beat. Recently redesigned with a larger frame, the 3 Series is a consistent, elegant offering in the luxury segment.
It bested the Mercedes-Benz C Class, its top competitor in the segment, by about 10,000 vehicles through the first six months of the year. But the competition is always fierce, and Mercedes has been narrowing the gap.
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Sports Car: Chevrolet Camaro
Sales Through June 2012: 49,697
MSRP: $23,280 - $54,095
Invoice: $22,349 - $51,931
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway
Speaking of neck-and-neck competitions, the German giants have nothing on the ongoing battle between two American classic sports cars. The Chevy Camaro is the current sales leader in the segment, but not by much.
There were 49,697 Camaros sold through June 2012 and 48,624 Ford Mustangs. But, some momentum is on the Mustang’s side: It has increased sales by 20.4 percent year to date, while the Camaro is off by half a percentage point.
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Crossover: Honda CR-V
Sales Through June 2012: 146,642
MSRP: $22,495 - $28,495
Invoice: $21,133 - $26,749
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway
If the midsize sedan competition is the most cutthroat of 2012, the fighting to reign in the crossover segment cannot be far behind. It’s the second-largest segment overall, claiming 19.4 percent of the market, according to Experian.
The Honda CR-V, a long-time staple, is the current leader, selling 146,642 vehicles through June. Despite enduring three recalls since its debut, the redesigned Ford Escape hasn’t seen a sales dip. It ranked close behind with 127,167 units sold at the mid point of 2012. In third place, the popular Chevy Equinox with 110,890.
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SUV: Ford Explorer
Sales Through June 2012: 77,894
MSRP: $28,870 - $40,720
Invoice: $27,210 - $37,972
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway
Conventional wisdom holds that consumers are fleeing the SUV market and buying smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. That’s no doubt true in some fashion. But the burgeoning health of the auto industry is lifting all segments – including the once-verbotten SUV. Sales of SUVs are up 11.7 percent overall this year.
And the granddaddy of the SUV realm, the Ford Explorer, remains at the top of its game. Ford has sold 77,894 of the cars through June, which got a boost from a redesigned lineup that includes a more powerful sport trim. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, another stalwart, remained in the competition with 75,117 vehicles sold.
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Minivan: Dodge Grand Caravan
2012 Sales YTD: 68,694
MSRP: $20,995 - $29,995
Invoice: $20,810 - $28,670
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 25 mpg Highway
For a long time, many industry pundits thought Chrysler would kill off the Grand Caravan and keep its cousin, the more expensive Town & Country. But earlier this month, they learned the reverse is true. Chrysler plans to eliminate the T&C and put its minivan stake entirely in the Grand Caravan.
With the Grand Caravan leading the sales fight with 68,694 vehicles sold, the two models combine to own 29.0 percent of the minivan market share. But individually, the Honda Odyssey (61,756) and Toyota Sienna (58,985) are very much alive to claim the title of best-selling minivan.
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