It would appear that the natural order of midsize sedans has returned, at least for a month: after a January that saw fierce American, Japanese, and Korean competition for the middle of the pack, the competitive results of February 2012 sales returned to normal.
We say "middle of the pack" because, of late, there is no doubt as to who is winning in the midsize segment of sales. That accolade goes to the Toyota Camry, which sold 34,542 units last month, enough for a clear lead. Second place, as usual, went to the Nissan Altima, which cracked the 30,000-unit barrier for the first time this year and sold 32,953 units. The Altima is the opposite: a redesigned model is on the way for 2013, but the aging 2012 design still manages to find a sizable following.
Third place last month went to the Ford Fusion, which sold 21,773 units. That’s an improvement from January 2012, where the Fusion slipped from third place at the end of 2011 to sixth. Like the Altima, the Fusion continues to sell well despite the fact an all-new model will soon arrive on dealer lots.
Speaking of redesigns, the Accord soldiers on as Honda readies its replacement, but the mid-size model sold 20,702 units last month, enough to earn it the fourth-place spot. The showing might seem solid, and it is, but the model is off 6.3 percent for the month and 2.9 percent for the year. Amidst a field of competitors posting serious increases, the Accord returned a rare negative showing.
The Chevrolet Malibu may have finished January in third place, but it returned to its usual position in the middle of the pack with a fifth-place showing last month, with sales ringing in at 19,987 units. This figure includes both 2012 and 2013 models, as the 2013 Malibu Eco has recently gone on sale. The remainder of the 2013 Malibu range, including other engine and trim options, should roll out later this year.
The Hyundai Sonata may have experienced a healthy 11-percent sales increase year-over-year, but it was only good enough for a sixth-place showing. It slipped two spots last month by selling 17,425 units. Meanwhile, its platform-mate – the Kia Optima -- sold 11,558 units, enough to retain its previous eighth-place spot.
Seventh place went to the combination of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger. The 200 has been something of a success story for Chrysler: it sold 9717 units last month, 315 percent more than last year. Sales of the 200 began spiking between February and March of last year, following the 200's advertising debut during the Super Bowl. The Avenger, meanwhile, sold 6570 units last month. While the model does have an uncertain future, sales were still up 89 percent year-over-year, an impressive showing.
The mid-size segment's dark horse, the Volkswagen Passat, continued to trend upward as well: it sold 8189 units last month, enough for a ninth-place finish. That might not sound like much, but Volkswagen claims that last month was the Passat’s best performance since August 2001, which could spell continued success for the larger, less expensive model.
As usual, the Mazda 6 brought up the rear, with only 5101 units sold in Februrary. Interestingly, that is 79.7 percent better than the same time frame last year. It was also the 6's best month since March 2008. We hope Mazda can find some solace in those facts.
Sources: Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia