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The Death of the Sedan
If it wasn’t obvious to you that the popularity of sedans has drastically diminished, you must not be driving in America. In the fall of last year, sales of mid-sized cars plummeted drastically and October was the lowest volume month for that particular category. Of course, auto manufacturers are also beginning to take notice of this alarming trend and revising their sales strategy in order to capitalize on the development. In fact, in April of this year, Ford made a shocking announcement. Moving forward, the company will only be producing TWO vehicles in their car lineup- the iconic Mustang and the practical Focus Active. That’s right, the formerly popular Fusion, Focus, Taurus, and Fiesta will all be lost to the wayside. So, what does that mean for the Ford portfolio? Well, for one, they will be turning over 75% of the current lineup with this decision.
To combat that loss, they will be adding four new trucks and SUVs. In every sense of the expression, Ford is truly choosing to put all their eggs in the truck, SUV, and crossover basket. They will also be shifting focus (pun intended) toward the electric vehicle and hybrid sector that is taking over the industry. And while they may be ridding themselves of their current midsize lineup, they will also be exploring adding “white space” vehicles which are basically higher profile styles with more cargo space, similar to crossovers.
While others may be skeptical, Ford is feeling pretty optimistic regarding their extreme decision, because they anticipate that 50% of all American retail sales will be SUVs by 2020. Pretty presumptuous numbers which are surprisingly backed up and tracked by those at The Truth About Cars by means of a “Midsize Sedan Deathwatch” tag that has been in play since 2016. And really, when you think about Ford, do any of their midsize vehicles come to mind first? Most likely the brand association for the general populace goes straight to their line of dependable trucks. As of now, the key players running the sedan market have always been (and probably always will be) the Camry and Accord.
Immediately following Ford’s big reveal regarding their huge shift in target market and production, many wondered if we could expect other automakers to follow suit. So far, we haven’t seen more of the same, but depending on how the numbers change in the future, nothing can be ruled out yet. Subaru, although not necessarily a major player, has more or less scoffed at the dramatic move by Ford. Dominick Infante, Subaru’s national manager of production communications, cited the rising gas prices as an incentive for the mid-size sedan demand. Even though the company saw a 66% increase in sales of the Crosstrek during the first four months of the year, he stated that, “Gas prices are starting to come up now. So a good hedge for a better economy is having a sedan.”
There is no doubt that mid-size sedans are in trouble, but it would be hard to believe that a point will come where there is no demand at all for them. Regardless, Ford has made its bed and will now have to sleep in it. No longer considered a full-line automaker, it stands to reason that the company could lose some loyal customers who have continued to purchase their traditional sedans over the years. It is doubtful that a Focus driver will amicably make the decision to trade in his dependable hatchback for a cross-over or SUV when the time comes to upgrade. Most likely, Ford can expect to lose a huge part of that target sedan market to Toyota or Honda.