Was it premature to give up on traditional cars?
Due to declining sales, Ford made the dramatic announcement last year to essentially leave the traditional car market with the exception of the Mustang. Sedans and especially coupes were not selling nearly as fast as crossovers, trucks, and SUVs. Unlike Ford, Japanese automakers like Honda and Toyota made clear they had no intention of abandoning these segments, though Toyota hasn't sold a front-wheel-drive coupe in several years. Honda, however, refuses to drop the Civic coupe. In fact, the entire model lineup, including the Civic sedan and Civic hatchback, is experiencing a sales surge.
According to data collected by Automotive News, the Civic family is leading the compact car segment over its closest rival, the Toyota Corolla, by about 20,000 units so far this year. Last month, the Civic experienced a 26 percent gain for a total of 34,808 units.
Although the Civic family sales are not at a record high, overall deliveries are 1.3 percent higher this year through August. Nearly all other traditional cars cannot match that. Even the Honda Accord, Fit, and Insight hybrid gained sales traction last month. Put it like this: car sales increased by 20 percent for all Hondas and Acuras while the brands' light truck sales had a 16 percent gain.
"Do people want passenger cars? Yes," said Steven Center, vice president of the auto sales division for American Honda. "Forty-seven percent of our sales are passenger cars and we're picking up share in the passenger car segment - almost two points compared to the other mainstream brands." Ford, as well as other Detroit-based automakers, are not the only ones who need to pay attention to Civic sales. "We're also gaining from other Asian brands too, such as Hyundai. So, I think it's kind of from everybody," Center said. "As the market shifts more to trucks, those people that prefer passenger cars are coming to us in droves. Almost 20 percent of the passenger cars sold in America are Hondas. That is crazy."
The Civic is also popular with first-time buyers and millennials. Having three unique body styles certainly helps, as does the Civic Type R hot hatch. What's also helping the Civic is outright value. As the price of new vehicles, especially crossovers, continues to increase, there are still plenty of car shoppers who desire something reliable, fun to drive, and familiar. That's the Civic in a nutshell.
"Civic has successfully endured the market shift toward SUVs because there is still a strong demand for cheaper, basic transportation at a price point below small SUVs. Civic fills this niche with a reliable brand name that has been a standout in the segment for decades," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analyst at Edmunds.
Although 2020 pricing figures have yet to be announced, we expect only slight changes from 2019 Civics, which started off at $20,750 for a base coupe. Is it possible Ford made the wrong decision in eliminating the Fiesta, Focus, and even the Fusion from the North American market? Too soon to tell, but the Honda Civic remains as popular as ever.