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Coronavirus Killing Off New Sedan Sales At A Quicker Pace

In a decade new sedan sales have fallen off by half. That’s right, sedan sales are seeing record decreases in every category. But now with the coronavirus crisis absolutely devastating all vehicle buying sedans are seeing disproportionately fewer sales than SUVs and pickup trucks. For the past five years even the popular Toyota Camry has seen a steady drop. Its 2019 production figures fell to their lowest numbers since 1995. But now the coronavirus is killing off new sedan sales at an even quicker pace.

The midsize sedan market in 2019 dropped for the sixth straight time

A new Toyota Camry hybrid automobile is on display during the second press day of the Paris Motor Show
The Toyota Camry | Chesnot/Getty Images

The midsize sedan market in 2019 dropped for the sixth straight time to eight percent. That represents 1.376 million sales. Surprisingly, while all segments are down for 2020 because, you know-pandemic; midsize sedans have actually held their eight percent share. But in all other sedan segments there has been a sometimes precipitous drop. New sedan sales will take a killing.

According to GoodCarBadCar, the Honda Accord dropped 27% in Q1 2020. The Hyundai Sonata fell 28%, while the Mazda 6 fell off of a cliff by 35%. Both the Subaru Legacy and VW Passat each dropped over 20% so far this year. With a glut of off-lease two- and three-year-old cars already clogging up every vacant lot in cities big and small, the sedan may catch some of the brunt of that situation, too.

Especially two-year-old SUVs may find more favor than a new small sedan

Especially two-year-old SUVs may find more favor with buyers than a new small sedan for a similar price. At this point we don’t even know how low prices will fall for these off-lease SUVs. Almost no used car auctions are taking place. Once this picks up prices will fall. No one is sure when the overall used-vehicle market will stabilize.

Another problem is choice. There is a less overall selection of new sedans with manufacturers like the Detroit Three axing many sedans last year. It will become a matter of what is on the lot in many cases. What is on dealership lots is mostly SUVs large and small.

If you’re in the market you’re most likely wanting a Camry to begin with

A Toyota Camry Hybrid on display
A 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The other interesting thing about the midsize market is that if you’re in the market you’re most likely wanting a Camry to begin with. Toyota’s midsize sedan makes up over 25% of this segment and it will probably increase. It is becoming more like, “I want a Camry,” than it is “I’m looking for a midsize sedan.”

The Camry is gobbling up a larger piece of the shrinking pie and falling overall at a slower pace. Whereas the Honda Accord saw sales drop in 2019 by almost 25,000, the Camry dropped under 6,500 units. Typically Accord sales are around 40,000 less per year than the Camry. Sales for 2019 were 267,567 for Accord versus 336,978 for Camry. So the Accord was off last year by almost 70,000 from the Camry. 

Any way you look at it 2020 is going to be a horrendous year for auto sales

Honda executives celebrate as the 2018 Honda Accord is named the car of the year at the 2018 North American International Auto Show
The Honda Accord | JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

Any way you look at it 2020 is going to be a horrendous year for auto sales both new and used. We may see more sedans disappear earlier than expected as car companies fight to produce their most popular and profitable vehicles first. In the end there may not be any room for sedans in a market like the one we’re about to enter.