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Buyer interest in medium cars still sliding

Global phenomenon: Car-makers are discarding mid-size sedans as financial returns from the segment dwindle.

Despite attractive new models, buyers drift away from traditional cars and into SUVs


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1 Nov 2021

MEDIUM-size passenger cars have been considered a bit of a dying breed for some time and, in the past year, it has never been clearer that the segment has lost much of its former glory.


Typically sedan and wagon cars in the medium sector – think Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Liberty – are literally getting the boot due to the rise of SUVs.


Demand still exists – last year the segment attracted almost 33,000 buyers – for the traditional sedan concept among a group of people who prefer the generally higher level of comfort, handling and style offered by its players.


But its market share is dwindling. Figures to the end of September this year show the medium passenger car segment now represents just 2.9 per cent of the new-vehicle market.


This is a far cry from the 9.7 per cent (or 111,954 sales) it occupied in 2015. Since then, it has drifted to 32,842 sales in the 12 months of 2020, just 3.6 per cent of the market.


Other than the rise and rise of SUVs, much of the downward trend is attributed to OEMs backing out of the space because of the sliding sales. It became too hard to operate and make a viable business case in such an environment.


This exit includes the Ford Mondeo, Subaru Liberty (the discontinued Levorg is to be relaunched as WRX Sportswagon), Kia Optima and Hyundai i40 while in the $60,000-plus medium-car bracket, outgoings include BMW’s 3 Series GT, while models about to return from hiatus include the Volkswagen Arteon and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.


There are now eight models in the sub-$60,000 bracket and 11 in the over-$60K sector. This compares with the busy year of 2015 when there were 30 models; 16 in the lower-priced sector and 14 above.


Reduced choice is another reason why buyers are not looking at sedans. More product incites interest and leads to sales and, in this regard, Hyundai should do well with its latest Sonata that in its sole N-Line trim has been critically acclaimed for its dynamics, performance, features, comfort with safety, value, low ownership costs and circa-$50,000 before on-roads price tag.


Others in the lower end of the field worthy of attention are the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Peugeot 508, Mazda6, Skoda Octavia (arguably the most pragmatic sedan on the market) and even the Toyota Camry which, in hybrid guise, snubs its nose at the petrol bowser while delivering adult-sized comfort.


Back in 2015 there was a much larger choice and the models that did well included the Camry (particularly buoyant in sales to fleets), Honda Accord Euro, Ford Mondeo, Suzuki Kizashi, Mazda6 and Hyundai i40, with some attention also to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and even the short-lived Holden Malibu.


That year saw 111,954 sales of medium-size cars, which then plunged by two-thirds to last year’s total of 32,842 units.


The Toyota Camry remains the most popular in the segment, selling 10,213 to September 30 this year for a 79.3 per cent share of the sub-$60K bracket and, in perspective, 43 per cent of the total medium-car class.


The next most popular was the BMW 3 Series with a 12.4 per cent share.

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