Traditional Car Body Styles Remain Important to Consumers

While GM, Ford, and Stellantis have largely stuck nails in the car coffin, several competing manufacturers have stayed with them. Yes, crossover utility vehicles continue to dominate the market, but there is still room in the market for sedans as well as for coupes and hatchbacks. As for station wagons, it can be argued that’s what crossovers represent.

Honda Civic Sedan
2023 Honda Civic Sedan

Car Models, By the Numbers

A cursory look at the 2023 sales numbers reveals some interesting data: while car models continue to shrink in number, several of the remaining manufacturers are seeing strength, even an increase in sales.

For example, Honda sold nearly 400,000 car models in 2023, with that number nearly evenly split between the midsize Accord (197,947 units) and the compact Civic (200,381). Notably, the two models registered a sharp sales increase in 2023, jumping 28.0 and 49.6 percent, respectively. Only the compact CR-V crossover and the Odyssey minivan outpaced the car duo with even the sedan sales outpacing all other models.

Rival Toyota, which has a larger variety of car models available, including the compact Corolla sedan and hatchback, midsize Camry sedan, Prius hybrid hatchback, and the flagship Crown, is enjoying similar strength. Although overall sales numbers were up a modest 2 percent on 596,656 units sold, its Corolla (232,370) and Camry (290,649) models continue to lead their respective categories.

Nissan’s total car production is less than Honda and Toyota, with 280,996 units sold in 2023. That’s up 12.4 percent for the year, although the gain was less than half that of its utility vehicles. Still, its midsize Altima (128,030) and compact Sentra (109,195) sedans are in demand. It should be noted that sales of the Sentra increased 41.6 percent last year. Finally, Maxima sales climbed by 35.7 percent, although 2024 will be the final year for this flagship sedan.

2021 Kia K5 front
2021 Kia K5.

Subaru and Mazda

Subaru still sells two car models – the midsize Legacy sedan and the sporty BRZ coupe. Combined, the two account for just under 30,000 units, but sales of both rose by double digits for the year. We believe Subaru will stick with the two models for at least the short term as the Legacy shares its platform with the brand’s larger crossovers, while the BRZ is teamed with the Toyota 86.

Mazda continues with two car models – the acclaimed MX-5 Miata and the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback. Both models registered double-digit increases for 2023, with the Miata surging 45.4 percent for the year.

Hyundai and Kia

Other manufacturers with a car presence include Hyundai and Kia. The Korean manufacturers offer several models, although none offer a subcompact to go up against the Nissan Versa, the only remaining model with a U.S. presence. Between the compact Elantra and the midsize Sonata, Hyundai sold almost 180,000 units in 2023, a modest boost over the previous year. Interestingly, Hyundai sells about 2.5 times the number of Elantras versus the Sonata, underscoring the strength of the entry-level market for consumers.

Kia sold more than 188,000 units total of its compact Forte and midsize K5 car models along with 5,452 units of its outgoing Stinger. Notably, Kia is retiring the Rio (26,804) after 2023, following Hyundai’s decision to no longer off the Accent stateside.

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye

Volkswagen, Stellantis, and Tesla

Volkswagen arrived late to the crossover market, releasing the Tiguan in 2009. Since then, the company has made up for lost time, by adding the Atlas, Atlas Sport, and Taos. This also means VW has moved away from car models, replacing its wagons with crossovers. VW has also dropped all but the performance versions of its subcompact Golf, although it still sells the compact Jetta. Its midsize Passat is gone, but its low-volume and premium Arteon remains.

Where does that leave the traditional U.S. manufacturers? Stellantis retired the Challenger in 2023 and is replacing the Charger with an all-electric model in a few months. GM still sells the Chevrolet Corvette but retired the Camaro in 2023. Cadillac offers a pair of car models – the CT4 and CT5 sedans. As for Ford, the only car model left is the Mustang. All three manufacturers are chiefly utility vehicles and pickup truck makers.

Tesla is an interesting wild card among domestic brands. We don’t have 2023 sales figures, but its Model 3 sedan is a top 10 seller and it still offers the Model S sedan. But Tesla is categorized as a luxury maker, although the argument can be made that the Model 3 is mainstream.

Enduring Car Models

Out of more than 16 million units sold in 2023, car body styles account for over 1.8 million units sold. That’s about 12 percent of all sales, a category GM, Ford, and Stellantis have largely surrendered to the “foreign” manufacturers. Importantly, the “Big 3” are also making it difficult for entry-level buyers to jump in, with even base crossovers costing thousands of dollars more than comparable car models they no longer offer.

Is it time to rethink car models?

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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