Carmakers are having a hard time selling the product that once defined their brands, the full-sized sedan. Thank the SUV and crossover, in all their sizes, for the wake.
In 2007, about 1.1 million full-sized sedans moved off showroom floors; By 2016 that was down to 440,000, according to data from Automotive News. And this while the U.S. car market soared to new highs and the population grew 7%.
The Ford Taurus once saved that company, but from 2007-2016 it needed saving: Sales were off 35% and the car is expected to become a Chinese market vehicle. The Buick LaCrosse is part of a resurgent Buick brand, but not really contributing to it with a sales drop of 42%. And the Chrysler 300, which once symbolized the rebirth of Chrysler, now represents the death of a nameplate with sales off more than half.
We know where consumers went, but why? The SUV and crossover offer a carload of reasons for their dominance, including interior space, commanding ride height, and design that is now generally stylish, not truckish. And we never did return to the days of $5 gas, which once drove a swing toward smaller cars.
Also key is that carmakers figured out how to make crossovers for little increased cost over the cars they are based on, while charging substantially more at retail. They are great profit centers.
If you want to take contrarian advantage of all this, buy yourself a Hyundai Azera, sales of which have fallen 77% from what was already a small base. Its a nice looking car with an outstanding warranty and roughly as rare as a Ferrari.