Although they still represent the single largest segment of the U.S. auto industry, family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are losing ground this year to crossovers.
The market share of family sedans has shrunk in 2013, while vehicles like the Ford Escape have increased their share of the market. "While the segment is still growing year-over-year, it's nowhere near what it was growing last year as the industry was launching a lot of new midsize cars," Toyota brand U.S. boss Bill Fay said about U.S. auto sales in April, according to a report from Reuters
U.S. auto sales are being driven forward by pickup trucks and SUVs. Crossovers, which are SUVs built on a car-based platform, appeal to customers as they offer more boot space, are more practical and easier for people to enter and exit. Their fuel economy is improving and, most importantly, the price gap between midsize sedans and compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 or the Honda CR-V has narrowed.
According to Kelley Blue Book, a small crossover costs just $1,300 more than the typical family sedan, amounting to less than $20 in monthly payments in some cases. "People are switching to crossovers, because they satisfy the family needs very well," said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist.
Midsize sedans made up 17 percent of the U.S. auto market during the first quarter of 2013, compared with 17.7 percent during the same period last year, according to LMC Automotive.
Japanese automakers, which dominate the sedan segment in the U.S., are the worst hit from this shift in consumers’ preferences. Toyota Camry sales fell 14 percent in April as overall U.S. auto sales rose 8.5 percent. Sales the Honda Accord, redesigned last year, fell 5 percent.
However, crossovers are not the only reason for the decrease in sedan sales as tougher competition in the segment also takes its toll on these models.
By Dan Mihalascu