Top Selling Car Models
The redesigned Honda Accord and Honda Civic have both gained ground in 2011 against the No. 1-selling car in the U.S. market, the Toyota Camry. In the first half of 2007, the Camry outsold the Accord by more than 58,000. In the first half of 2011, the margin was about 34,000. At that rate, the Camry will probably still outsell the Accord for the full year, but it will be a lot closer than last year. The new Accord went on sale in August 2007. The four-cylinder version gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway.
The Nissan Altima continues to gain sales, following record sales
in 2007. Nissan (NSANY) launched an all-new Altima in January 2007. There’s also an Altima Hybrid, which is selling much better than a year ago, but still in small volumes. The hybrid accounted for sales of 5,575 in the first half, double the year-ago period. At 35 mpg city/33 mpg highway, the Altima Hybrid gets about 50% better city mileage, but essentially the same highway mileage as the conventional, four-cylinder Altima.
Ford said on July 1 that the four-cylinder Ford Fusion was in short supply, as consumers pursue higher gas mileage. Ford reported it had less than a 30-day supply of four-cylinder Fusions. A 60-day supply is the industry benchmark. The four-cylinder Fusion has a 2.3-liter engine that gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway. Actually, that’s not much better than 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway for the optional V6. Built on the same platform as the Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ, the Fusion is positioned between the Ford Focus and Ford Taurus. The Fusion debuted in 2005.
Even though Sentra sales are ahead of the year-ago period, the Sentra has lost share this year in the growing small-car segment. The Honda Civic, Chevy Cobalt, Ford Focus, and Hyundai Elantra have all experienced much larger sales growth in 2011 vs. 2007. Still, the Sentra’s first-half result is an improvement over 2007 sales. Last year, the Sentra fell 9.7% for the full year, vs. 2006. The fact that the Sentra gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway has probably helped this year. The current Sentra, launched in 2006, is the sixth generation of Nissan’s economy car.
Ford Escape (nonhybrid)
The Escape was redesigned for the 2011 model year. It’s on a car-like platform, so technically it’s a crossover, but a few years ago Ford evidently opted to play up the Escape’s SUV styling. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake, since shoppers this year are shunning even small SUVs. The conventionally powered Escape is up slightly this year, but its hybrid twin is down. Including the hybrid, total Ford Escape sales fell 0.2% in the first half to 92,065. The base four-cylinder engine gets an undistinguished EPA-estimated 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
The Chevrolet Malibu has been a much-needed hit for General Motors (GM). June sales were up 86.4% from the year-ago month, to 13,650. That includes 295 units of a gasoline-electric hybrid version that first went on sale in January. GM said hybrid sales were slow because of low battery availability and because the Malibu hybrid was initially launched in only 11 U.S. markets in the Northeast and West Coast. The conventional Malibu debuted in November 2007. Demand is strong for the base four-cylinder model, GM said. The Malibu shares the same underlying architecture as the Pontiac G6 and the Saturn Aura.
The sharp rise in demand for the tiny Toyota Yaris is a sign of the times. In a sure indication of high demand, Toyota Motor Sales USA raised sticker prices on the Yaris in May by $200, or 1.6%, to $12,425 for the base model. The Yaris replaced the even more quirky-looking Toyota Echo in the U.S. lineup in 2006 for the 2007 model year. The Yaris was first launched in Europe in 1999 and quickly became Toyota’s (TM) best-selling vehicle in Europe. Its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway.
The popularity of the redesigned 2011 Ford Focus has taken Ford (F) by surprise. The base four-cylinder gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway. The gas crisis has forced Ford to cut truck production, but Focus production is maxed out this year at 245,000. That’s up 28% from 2007, the biggest increase Ford can manage. Next year, Ford expects to build 280,000 Focuses, said George Pipas, Ford U.S. sales analysis manager. “The Focus has become a best-selling domestic car to retail customers in the U.S., much to our surprise‚Äîpleasantly, for sure,” Pipas said in a July 1 conference call.
At a starting price of $14,145, the Hyundai Elantra has standard features that are either optional or unavailable on competing cars, like roof-mounted side curtain air bags, side air bags, antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, and “active” front head restraints to reduce whiplash injuries. The Elantra was redesigned in fall 2006 for the 2007 model year. Gas mileage is an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway. The Elantra was No. 3 in the compact car segment in the 2011 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, behind the Honda Civic and the Toyota Prius.
In a year of production cuts overall, the G6 is one of a handful of cars and crossovers that have GM adding overtime and weekend shifts to keep up with demand, especially for models with four-cylinder engines. The base G6 has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. In keeping with Pontiac’s performance image, there are also three V6 versions, including the top-of-the-line G6 GXP, available as a sedan or a coupe. Pontiac also offers a G6 convertible with a folding hardtop. In June, G6 sales were up 32.4% from the year-ago month, to 14,620.
The stampede to smaller cars has helped make the Cobalt more popular. Its 2007 sales were so-so, down 5.1% from 2006. This year, Cobalt sales are up almost 20% from the year-ago period. In June, Cobalt sales were up 21.6% from the year-ago month, including an increase in fleet sales. The base 2.2-liter four-cylinder model gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway. In the small-car segment, the Toyota Corolla/Matrix and the Honda Civic are the volume leaders, followed by the Cobalt and the Ford Focus, but the domestic brands have gained some ground in 2011.
The trend to crossovers and away from traditional SUVs has helped the Ford Edge, which first debuted in 2006 as a 2007 model. It is a corporate cousin to the longer, more stylish Mazda CX-9, which has a third row of seats. The CX-9 got a lot more critical praise when it was introduced last year, but the Edge far outsells the CX-9, by more than 5 to 1 in June, for instance. On June 20, Ford said it will add a third shift to the plant that makes the Ford Edge, the Lincoln MKX, and the 2009 Ford Flex.