Smaller Cars Take Front and Center on U.S. Roads


R. L. Polk - March 19, 2013

Main­stream large cars con­tinue to lose favor among U.S. con­sumers, accord­ing to Polk, as motorists pay more atten­tion to prices at the gas pump.

What is the broad direc­tion of the auto indus­try today?

Main­stream large cars, such as the Avalon, Max­ima, Tau­rus and Impala, con­tinue to lose favor. Their com­bined share of the U.S. mar­ket has retreated from 5.8% in 2008 to just 3.5% in 2012 (the results were sim­i­lar this past Jan­u­ary, with the large car share declin­ing from 4.1% a year ago to 3.9% this year). Large cars now account for a smaller slice of the U.S. mar­ket than mini­vans, itself an endan­gered species.

The broad move­ment of the U.S. light vehi­cle indus­try is in the direc­tion of smaller vehi­cles, It is par­tially due to CAFÉ require­ments and this sug­gests the cur­rent group of large cars will either dis­ap­pear and the cur­rent mid­size offer­ings will become the future full­size cars or the cur­rent mod­els will shrink. In the lat­ter case, all vehi­cles would have to shrink to avoid hav­ing the full­size vehi­cles over­lap with mid­size cars and that seems unlikely.