Say Goodbye To The Great American Sedan

The four-door sedan may have once been the staple of American highways. But those days are quickly disappearing. These days cars are rapidly being replaced by pickups, crossovers, and SUVs. And that’s showing no sign of slowing down.

According to figures cited by CNBC, as recently as ten years ago, Detroit’s Big Three automakers sold slightly more cars than trucks in America. The split was 51/49 then, but by the end of last year, it had gone all lopsided. In 2017, the proportion was 35 for cars, 65 for trucks.

At this rate, LMC Automotive figures that trucks (including pickups, crossovers, and SUVs) will account for about 90 percent of the market by 2022. The industry tracking firm forecasts that, within four years, GM’s domestic sales will consist 84 percent of trucks (with only 16 remaining for cars). Ford’s will be even higher at 90 percent. And Fiat Chrysler will focus almost entirely on trucks at 97 percent of capacity.

Who are what’s to blame?

The reasons, according to CNBC, are two-fold. On the one hand, fuel prices have been dropping, leaving consumers less concerned about fuel economy to prioritize other factors. On the other, trucks have been improving by leaps and bounds. Today’s pickups, crossovers, and SUVs drive better and consume less fuel than their predecessors, closing the gap to lower passenger vehicles.

Money (always) talks

They’re also more profitable for their manufacturers. CNBC notes that Ford, for example, makes an average of $4,500 more on a small EcoSport than it does on a comparable Fiesta, and $2,500 more than it would on a Focus. No wonder Dearborn is discontinuing the Fiesta in its home market, and is coming out with new trucks like the Ranger, Bronco, and Mach 1. The former two nameplates had long been absent from the US market. And the latter was previously used as a trim level on the Mustang pony car.

Ford isn’t alone, either. FCA has been steadily withdrawing from the passenger-car market and placing increased emphasis on more profitable trucks. Gone are the Chrysler 200, Dodge Dart, and Dodge Viper. Their capacity is being taken up by trucks like the Ram 1500 and Jeep Wrangler. Meanwhile Chevrolet is tipped to be dropping the Sonic hatchback and Impala sedan.

A rise in fuel prices could make passenger cars look more attractive again to both customers and manufacturers. But by the time that happens, trucks will likely have improved that much more. Either way, the American passenger car could carry on strictly as a niche product for enthusiasts.

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  • Adilos Nave

    I suppose they have to follow what the consumer wants but putting all their eggs in one basket seems like such a bad idea. How many times have we seen this happen? Sure, gas is fairly cheap at the moment but it’s terribly fickle. It will be hard not to laugh at the people driving around in their gigantic trucks when gas goes over $4/gal. because you know they will be the first to complain about it. Thing is, it hurts everyone. Once that happens, these companies will be scrambling to get product to market that’s not jumbo-sized while the European and Asian brands will still have a portfolio with many small models to choose from. They might not be selling them in the States at the moment but they can easily shift their focus while the domestic brands will be years behind. Just blows my mind how they can be so short-sighted. This is what happens when your shareholders demand returns no matter what and don’t give a crap about the long-term health of the company.

    • True. There is precedence for this. The exact thing happened in the 1990s, due to low gas prices, people embraced SUVs, only to be wacked when high gas returned. The US car makers had changed their product mix to be more SUV oriented and had very few small and economical passenger cars demanded. The Japanese automakers ate their breakfast, lunch, dinner and desert and took massive market share from them.

      • dhoosee

        I purchased a Mini Cooper hardtop in 2008 when gas prices were climbing (i replaced another car…no trucks for me), and it was a challenge to find one; many were tossing aside their SUV’s in favor of smaller autos. Cheaper gas prices brought back the pieces of crap, and smaller cars fell by the wayside. Heaven forbid you have a kid or two and have to move them around in a CAR?!? “So much easier to load them into a tall vehicle with monster doors…” God, people are lazy!

    • krusshall

      The proliferation of CUVs continues to reach all the way down to the bottom of manufacturer’s lineups. The market shift is permanent regardless of fuel price as there isn’t a massive fuel economy and cost disparity like there was in 2008. The traditional sedan is just no longer desirable when there are more comfortable and versatile choices for similar prices. I switched cars with my in-laws this weekend so they could have mine with the car seats. It was a 2007 Camry. Drove well enough but I had to bottom the seat out and lean it back to keep my head from touching the roof. I have to fall back into the seat getting in and have to work much harder getting out than my minivan. It’s those small differences that are driving the conversion.

    • diesel_vdub

      The other issue is the Asian manufacturers essentially build one vehicle that they sale world wide with minor changes, as a result they can ramp up availability and sales very quickly due to market changes. The Big Three, for some strange reason, seems to insist on removing content and cheapening a vehicle sold in the US verses other parts of the world. This leaves the US waiting years or possibly until the next generation of a vehicle to become available here

    • Bobby Lee

      I get your point, but it ignores the fact that fuel efficient crossovers are closing the gap on MPG and enticing buyers. The market is not going wholly towards gas hogs.

    • This is GM in a nutshell. Short-term profit over long-term stability.

      • HaltestelleLuitpolthafen

        I’d argue that’s Chrysler/FCA even more so.

    • LWOAP

      I’m with you on that one. When gas goes back it up they’re going to be screwed.

    • S3XY

      Lol gas

    • MarketAndChurch

      You’re making a faulty assumption that CUV’s can’t or won’t be fuel efficient. The market is producing many CUV’s that average 25mpg, and it won’t be long before that average rises to 30mpg, where most cars are at right now. Not to mention that there are tons of hybrid and electric SUV options on the way from Toyota, VW, Ford, Honda, etc. My next car will be a small hybrid CUV. Small and midsize CUV’s are the best selling SUV’s and make up the bulk of SUV sales in the US.

      You make the assumption that future rise in gas prices will drive consumers looking for non-existent 30+mpg sedan options that will all be gone, when they’re more likely to search out 30mpg CUV’s that automakers plan on bringing out.

      • dhoosee

        Think of the economy that could be realized with the same technologies applied to sedans or hatchbacks? It still takes more fuel to push a Ford F150 hybrid or ecoboost a mile compared to a Focus or C-Max. The pickup gets 25mpg, figure the car does 40mpg or better.

        • MarketAndChurch

          Yes but the market prefers something that’s funner to drive than a hybrid. A SUV with 400hp is more fun to drive than a Prius. That is why hybrids should first be about performance enhancement before fuel economy, that’s the only way to get more of them into consumer hands… is if they make the driving experience more fun.

    • not really scared for the big 3. Ford is a makor player in Europe, so much that some people see it as a German brand.FCA has a wide catalogue of smaller car, one could argue that in FCA’ catalogue the only good vehociles are only small city cars and american monsters with V8, and GM, well they sold Opel/Vauxhall, but they still know how to make small cars, are up to date on electric and hybrid. and 4 dollars per Gallon, geeze, I’d like to pay that… in Europe. It’s still cheap!

    • Dennis Scipio

      But people buy crossovers if they have a big family or if they want more space to carry things or people than what you can get out of a sedan, some even offer all wheel drive. They won’t die off for sure, just like the sedan isn’t dying yet. there’s always a purpose for them.

    • MultiKdizzle

      It’s already above $4/Galin my part of California

  • Christian

    don’t worry guys! This is the new Neon! Sold as the Fiat Tipo in europe, it got a Super fast 1,6 N/a or the ultra crazy 1,4 Turbo and hold on! 120 Bhp!

    yOU can kinda still say that you drive a Dodge Chager…
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/de0ba573e4c73065832580587c676da466c88a458f91c174305d0e30d313749e.jpg

    • Bash

      You missed an r , which makes you a complete idiot.
      Whats that car name again?
      lol

      • Six Thousand Times

        Easy, fella, with the name-calling.

        • Bash

          I’m cool man, I’m cool.

      • Status

        Just take a few steps back when Christian posts something.

        • Bash

          I never step back. lol

      • Christian

        And I called you beautiful ? Now I know how Michelle Fields felt when she got assaulted by Trump’s security!

        • Bash

          LOL

  • I’d still hold judgment for the moment. Auto loans are having some massive changes planned for the near-future, so it’s still one to watch. For example, increasing APR rates to stop those who can’t afford to take out pcp, pch etc… finance agreements. Some dealerships are also reducing discounts too, lowering the overall affordability for, in particular, SUVs pushing (possibly) more consumers into sedans instead.

  • timii

    Wait the charger and 300 too?

    • Bash

      Hold your horses, no one said that! just because there is pic for a charger in the gallery it doesn’t mean it will be dropped.

      • Six Thousand Times

        But it will when Chrysler/Dodge are finally put down.

        • Bash

          I give you that.

      • timii

        Okay so i was asking. Theyre old ass dirt anyway

  • sigma7777777

    🇧🇷 Brazil too.

  • Mr. Crankypants

    Guess this means I should stop waiting for the return of Buick’s Electra 225?

    • Six Thousand Times

      Sadly you will never push a new duece-and-a-quarter.

    • I’VE BEEN LONGING FOR A RIVIERA. AN ELECTRIC ONE EVEN BETTER.

  • Steven Sposato

    The only thing one can hope is that as sedans die, it may give way to more wagons coming into the states. I’m aware that’s wishful thinking, but it’s not a crazy idea.

    • Althea Later

      We will have to see how well the new Regal Tourx sells. If it sells well, then we will see more.

  • Infinite1

    And when gas prices come back up, people will start to jump ship on SUVs for smaller sedan once again.

    • Six Thousand Times

      Smaller CUVs with small fours and “hybrids” will substitute for those small sedans.

  • Six Thousand Times

    Goodbye sedans. Goodbye coupes. Goodbye wagons and convertibles. Hello more SUVs. Might as well roll on the autonomous pods…

    • Loquacious Borborygmus

      Sounds painful that!

    • dhoosee

      You forgot “Goodbye fun driving”, and “Hello appliance with a steering wheel and tires.”

      • Six Thousand Times

        Yeah. That was the implication.

  • Stealth333

    Good, makes me more faster in my Sedan when all these people are driving these slow boats.

    • Loquacious Borborygmus

      Until you’re stuck behind the idiots at the next corner…

  • Paul

    Then one day when everything goes down the drain and all they have are SUV’s and trucks, they will be scrambling to get what they need to market and be caught with their pants down again. Just like back when the great gas crisis struck.

  • JBohanPitt

    The world is not all going to SUVs and Trucks and certainly not all Americans. Americans simply are not buying American Sedans. The Japanese and Koreans are doing just fine.

    Focusing near to 100% on SUVs is going to lead to some pretty significant challenges.

    We are getting closer and closer to a form or Transport-as-a-Service where we pay a subscription for a transport vehicle, just as we do with our phones. Maintenance, insurance and the ability to frequently upgrade are all included. Throw in fully electric with 1000KM/600M range and autonomous capabilities where the vehicle can park itself, collect you where and whenever you need it, and the car that we see today will start to become a form of “Personal Public Transport”.

    Consumers are going to start to care less and less about the brand. It will simply be a transport service and a transport vehicle will arrive to service them. We are already living in the “Asset-light” economy where we own a lot less physical items like music and video. It is not a stretch to assume that the new certainly younger consumer is simply interested in the service, not the asset. By focusing almost 100% on trucks and SUVs, there is a good chance that they will not have the product to support the majority of consumers.

    Now if they can electrify their trucks and convince their consumers to make the switch then may be. But if they are not made autonomous there is a good chance that they will be banned from many roads. Many will in the future only allow Autonomous driving.

    It is going to be interesting to see things play out as China is coming and Europe is with a better selection of electric cars and could be in a better position as the market shifts.

    • Mill0048

      Spot on. I think a lot of people would agree with you here on your overall prediction, the question is: When? Between now and then there’s still time to sell non-electric and non-autonomous cars, trucks, suvs, etc. We tend to bundle the electric propulsion technology, the autonomy movement, and sometimes the subscription model together, but the buying public and governments can — and most likely will — embrace them at a different pace. This is all very new technology, advancing at an incredible pace, aimed at a highly regulated, global industry that traditionally moves quite slow and measured. It’ll be interesting how it all play out!

      • JBohanPitt

        The tipping point is getting close. You have pointed to the some key things that will change everything and these are getting awfully close to becoming a reality almost at the same time.

        EV Battery Range hits 1000 KM/600 miles (5-10 years away for the mainstream manufacturers, Tesla will come first)
        At this point the ICE is effectively dead. No engine will be able to beat the range of electric.

        5G (1Gb-10Gb) high density mobile broadband (5-10 years away for blanket coverage)
        This new mobile network will bring the ability to connect billions more devices and IoT (Internet of Things) hardware. The car will absolutely become one of those. This isn’t in car wifi getting faster. This is Artificial Intelligence in the Cloud helping cars to communicate constantly with one another and have access to a far more granular map of the world. This leads to…

        Level Five  Automation powered by Artificial Intelligence (10-15 years away from mainstream adoption)
        Cars will be safer when they are not driven by humans. Cities, States and Countries will start to prioritize lane and some complete roads to driverless only. Why will they do it? Because of a…….

        Significant drop in tax from petrol/gas (15-20 years)
        The only way to pay for the road networks with no petrol tax dollars coming in will be based on USAGE. By changing to autonomous lanes and roads they can build in the usage and charging infrastructure.

        So to answer your question, I would predict that we are about 20 years from the complete adoption of all of the above. Europe is already on track for this within this time frame. The US may take a while to catch up but it will be close.

        So think 2038-2043-ish.

        IMO.

        • dhoosee

          I hope to be dead before this all takes place.

    • MarketAndChurch

      I think you’re describing a future that is more than 3 decades away, there is no scenario wherein the 250,000,000 cars and trucks on American roads will be limited in their ability to use public roads just to allow for a few million of autonomous cars to get around safely, and there’s certainly no way to make that happen in the next 20 years.

      Even where it is allowed, they will be in zones where people will still have to park their privately-owned non-autonomous ride at the border before using, and return to when they wish to leave those autonomous zone.

      When I say non-autonomous, I mean non level 4 (or higher) autonomous. Most cars in the next 20 years will have up to level 3 autonomous driving features as early as 2025. But for a future similar to what you’re describing, you’ll need every car to have level 4 autonomous paired, with the ability to communicate with other cars, with an autonomous infrastructure controlling traffic to make that a reality.

      • JBohanPitt

        100% agreed and interestingly I clarified that above in my response to a question on timeline from another reader. Great minds think a like. Read above if you’re interested.

        • MarketAndChurch

          Thank you, I’ll take a look.

  • SAD NEWS AND IT DOESN’T LOOK HOPEFUL IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

    • Jørn-tommy Skjellnes

      we must hope there is comming a new car trend in future, remember in the 90s how big minivans was now poeople buing suvs instead, how poeople will get sick of the suvs and start buying sedans, hatchbacks and stationwagons again 😀

      • LETS HOPE, AND BRING BACK SOME NICE LOOKING COUPES TOO.

        • Jørn-tommy Skjellnes

          Yeah, lets hope that.

  • LWOAP

    Pretty much just waiting for fuel prices to go up and watching people scramble to get rid of those SUVs. I’m going to get a good laugh out of that.

  • S3XY

    SUVS – Lame. CUV’s – Lame. Trucks – Lame. Sedans – Cool. – Coupes – Even cooler.

  • LeStori

    So apart from breeders wanting to keep their kids safe, what is the real reason for the demand for large vehicles?
    Most are used for commuting to work, the grocery store, and ferrying the rugrats to their latest “educational” event. They are large for their internal size, heavy on fuel, hard to park . An inconvenience at best . So a need or a fashion trend. If the latter it could get ugly.
    When I hear blokes justifying their SUV purchase with “We are thinking of having a family so bought an SUV”, It makes you wonder what owning an SUV etc really means.

    • MarketAndChurch

      Would you consider the Ford Explorer a large vehicle? Most SUV buyers buy something a size between the Ford Explorer and the Subaru Forester or Toyota Rav-4. Large SUV’s like the Tahoe, Expedition, etc. don’t sell as much as midsize or small SUV/CUV’s; the majority of the SUV market resembles the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, and Honda CR-V, unless you consider those to be large vehicles too.

  • MarketAndChurch

    I think what killed the passenger car was the fact that it lacked a driving dynamic advantage over SUV’s. Most have either numb steering or unsatisfying power, and therefore just an appliance to move you from point a to b. That used to be the advantage that cars had over SUV’s but that is becoming less and less the case. They’re no longer a fun means of transportation unless you get a performance variant for thousands of dollars more.

  • CBV2020

    This is a chance for the sedan to take on a new form of imagination as it is no longer standard. Now we can get some design that will transform the sedan into a more personal, lifestyle reflection. Specialty vehicles! Let the games begin!

  • Six_Tymes

    they are much more efficient as far as interior space goes. my wife and I dont own an SUV but my wife sure wishes we had one, thankfully not a large one.

  • dhoosee

    I PRAY for $5/gallon gas in a couple of years, just to see these foolish, greedy manufacturers sales fall to pieces, and short-sighted consumer’s jaws drop when they have to spend a C-note to fill up their tanks.

  • YUDHA BAGASKARA

    by 2020s i think crossovers will take over automotive sales compared to saloons and hatchbacks

  • SteersUright

    Who cares?
    Products thankfully change to reflect current needs. People want more utility from their automobiles than ever before, so sports cars and sedans make less and less sense. Thats understandable. Why not offer any and all of your sedans with A7 style hatchbacks? Surely, that’ll make it more crossover-is and enhance its appeal.

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