Cars Might Be Making a Comeback in an SUV-Dominated Market

Unsold 2023 Accord sedans sit outside a Honda dealership Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Unsold 2023 Accord sedans sit outside a Honda dealership Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

It isn’t quite a comeback yet, but things may actually be looking up for car sales. A new report from Automotive News shows that cars have held — and even won back — some market share in the U.S. that has been held by bigger vehicles. Before we go any further, when I say “cars,” I’m talking about sedans, coupes, convertibles, hatchbacks and sports cars, all of which tend to be cheaper than their SUV counterparts (that’s important).

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The outlet says those types of vehicles have been dropping from brands’ lineups for years now in favor of crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks, but things are sort of looking up! In the first quarter of 2023, cars represented 21.4 percent of the 3.6 million new vehicles sold in the U.S. The Auto News Research & Data Center says that is up from a low of 19.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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That might not sound like too much… because it isn’t. But, it is still absolutely noteworthy. Cars’ share of the market has been on a steady decline in the U.S. since 2002, according to the outlet. That’s when cars were first outsold by light trucks. The pace has only been picking up since then as the Detroit Big Three began leaving the car segment altogether. All of this begs the question: will this incremental gain continue, or is it just a one time thing?

“It seems like we’re approaching some kind of natural boundary, where SUVs [and crossovers] are about 60 percent of the market, and pickups and vans and trucks are about 20 percent, and cars are about 20 percent,” Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power, told Automotive News.

He added that residual issues from the pandemic as well as inventory shortages may lead to the industry being a little bit unsteady for a few years to come.

This change may be coming down to two very serious factors: money and rejecting our parents. When it comes down to it, regular cars tend to be cheaper than comparable crossovers. AutoNews also inserts that it could be a reflection of long-true industry norms of kids not wanting to drive what our parents drove. I get that. My mom has a crossover. I have a convertible.

Interestingly, not everyone thinks there is a reason behind this possible trend, including Cooper Ericksen, the senior VP of product, battery electric vehicles and mobility planning and strategy for Toyota Motor North America. He feels that some people will just always prefer sedans no matter what.

“We can get into the why, but the bottom line is that it’s maybe not that important. Why? Because they just feel the way they feel, and so that’s a portion of the market that we want to serve,” Ericksen told the outlet.

He also asserted that the advent of electric vehicles may help cars’ marketshare.

“The same reasons why sedans have been successful for 50 years is why they’re successful with BEVs: because they’re more aerodynamic, they have better fuel economy, they have better range, they’re less expensive to manufacture, they’re easier to park and get around,” he told AutoNews.

Cars may be down, but not out. Jalopnik reached out to all cars, and they had this to say.

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