It might be a stretch to call last month’s mid-size sales race a competition: not only did the top two competitors cement their respective places, the margins between the winners and losers were very, very wide.
There’s no point in trying to escape the fact that the Toyota Camry won last month in a big way: it sold 28,295 units last month, beating the next competitor by nearly 6000 units. The new model was up 55.9 percent in January 2012 over January 2011, and it’s a testament to the continued success of the car despite natural disaster woes that threatened to delay the car’s redesign last year.
Coming in at 22,357 sales was the Nissan Altima, the perennial second-place finisher in the race. But second isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Nissan: it sells more Altimas than anything else, and that car represents nearly a third of Nissan/Infiniti U.S. sales. The Altima’s January sales were up 35.9 percent over the same period last year, a strong start for the mid-size sedan.
Third place has usually been reserved for Ford’s Fusion sedan, but it’s another Detroit sedan that wins the bronze medal for last month, the Chevrolet Malibu. The car sold 14,676 units last month, a very respectable figure considering that the car has a full redesign hitting dealerships later this year. The Malibu’s sales were up 4.1 percent over last year.
The Hyundai Sonata sat comfortably in fourth place last month, trailing the Malibu by just 187 units. The Korean sedan turned over 14,489 units in January, a respectable 9.3 percent over January 2011. The Sonata has barely moved from the middle of the pack in the past few months, and it’s not hard to see that the Sonata (and Hyundai in general) is suffering from production limitations. The Hyundai brand is sitting on just a 28-day inventory, less than half of what would be considered a prudent level.
The Honda Accord may have narrowly beat out the sixth-place car, the Ford Fusion, but its fifth-place finish means that the car’s upcoming refresh couldn’t come quickly enough. The Accord sold 13,659 units last month, less than half of the Toyota Camry. Sales may have been 1.5 percent better than last year, but Honda’s rescue from its 2011 woes will ride in on the Accord and Civic--only one of them, however, is carrying the torch.
Ford’s Fusion was down 5.1 percent from January 2011, and trailed the Accord by just 45 units. It sold 13,614 units last month, enough for sixth place and second among the American three, a disappointing return considering that just last month it took the third-place spot for all of 2011. The Fusion’s complete redesign--which debuted to near-universal acclaim last month in Detroit--could spell sales increases for the nameplate in the second half of this year, if production can pace with demand.
The duo of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger are still on their way up, but they accounted for a combined 12,704 sales, enough for seventh place and last among the American three. Both the 200 and Avenger were up more than 100 percent over the same time last year: the 200’s 7007 sales were up 789 percent from 2011, and the Avenger’s 5697 sales were up 146 percent year-over-year.
Bringing up the rear: the Kia Optima, at 8814 units, the Volkswagen Passat, at 6318 units, and the Mazda 6, at 4929 units. All three experienced some serious year-over-year sales increases, with the Optima up 130.8 percent over last year, the 6 up 118.3 percent, and the Passat up roughly 8213 percent over January 2011, as VW sold through the last of its inventory of old models.
Seeing that the Passat went from dead last to third from the bottom (it also beat standalone sales of the Dodge Avenger), its upward march is continuing. For Volkswagen’s lofty aspirations of making the Passat a serious sales contender to happen, it needs to sell at least 10,000 more units a month, but the upward trajectory suggests it might not be an impossible dream.
Sources: Ford, GM, Chrysler, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda