Midsize Sedans No Longer Vehicle of Choice for Families

BY Courtney Huckabay
Featured image for “Midsize Sedans No Longer Vehicle of Choice for Families”

After spending 20 of the last 27 years as the best-​selling vehicle segment in the U.S., midsize sedans have taken a dramatic downward turn in popularity. Midsize sedans were the top-​selling vehicle segment as recently as 2014, but so far in 2017 have tumbled to fifth behind compact SUVs, large trucks, midsize SUVs and compact cars. Market share for midsize sedans is now a meager 10.7 percent — the segment's lowest share since Edmunds began its tracking in 1991.

"While it's common for consumer tastes to change over time, it's surprising to see just how quickly shoppers have made the switch from sedans to SUVs," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. "As recently as three years ago, the Accord made up nearly 30 percent of all of Honda's sales in the U.S., and so far in 2017 it's down to 22 percent. Now that shoppers can now get an SUV for a similar price as a sedan and not have to pay much more at the pump, it's hard to convince them the smaller vehicle is a better choice."

Dealers can tout the No. 1 status of SUVs to consumers! The new AudienceSCAN study found 7% of Americans are considering SUVs for their next vehicle.

In the midst of this dramatic pivot in shopper tastes, the two of the most popular cars in America — the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord — are all-​new for 2018. While sales of both vehicles have declined in recent years, they've pulled further ahead of their rivals and are now competing closely to catch the attention of interested shoppers.

Those brands will have a lot of work to do to convince SUV Shoppers that sedans are cool. Meanwhile, featuring the super sporty options on SUVs should prove fruitful for dealerships. Try sporting some internet banner ads, because SUV Shoppers are 52% more likely than average consumers to take action after seeing banner ads.

"As the pool of buyers shrinks, you have to put out that much better of a product to keep your share of the segment, and that's exactly what Honda and Toyota are trying to do with the new Accord and Camry," Caldwell said. "Both are leaning on edgier design and a sportier image to convince shoppers that their vehicle is the stylish, fun choice in a segment that has a reputation for being overtly practical."

Even if the new Accord and Camry launch with rave reviews from media and car buyers, Edmunds analysts say it's highly unlikely the midsize sedan segment will ever return to its former glory. Nearly one-​quarter (23.5 percent) of midsize sedan owners who trade their vehicles in and buy a new vehicle purchase a small SUV, a figure that was 16.9 percent just three years ago.

Dealers can target those sedan drivers who are planning to trade in for SUVs through the air waves. The new AudienceSCAN research results showed 30% of SUV Shoppers took action after hearing radio (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) spots in the past month.

"Even if gas prices spike and the economy takes a downward turn, we don't see this trend reversing," Caldwell said. "Once someone gets used to the higher ride, extra space and creature comforts they can get in an SUV, it's almost a fool's errand to convince them to go back to a sedan."