Regular Passenger Cars Are on the Decline as Performance Variants Grow

Traditional passenger cars are hurting. Consumers overwhelmingly want troop carrier sized SUVs capable of carrying five children, two adults and three dogs. Additionally, gas prices remain artificially low and people are incapable of thinking about whether or not that might change. Consumers know what they want, and there is little incentive to change.

As such, the midsize car market is dying, it’s down 12 percent over the first four months of this year. Compacts and full-size cars are on the decline as well. However, if the vehicle in question started out as a econo-box but piled on the horsepower, chances are it isn’t hurting at all.

The Subaru WRX. Four doors, 268 horsepower and AWD.

Case in point, the Ford Focus. The Detroit News recently broke down the sales figures for the vehicle and found something interesting. For the first four months of this year, Focus sales fell 24.6 percent compared to 2016. That’s bad, but not incredibly shocking. The Focus is in bad need of a refresh and as we covered sales of midsize cars are down anyway. What’s interesting, however, is that performance variants of the Focus are selling just fine.

Over the same period, sales of the Focus ST and RS actually grew by 25 percent. Doubly interesting, dedicated sports cars are also taking a hit. Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro sales are all down.

I get it. My wife prefers her Rav4 for daily duty, hauling groceries and picking up our daughter. I use the vehicle on the weekend to pickup lumber or to haul my bike. For getting to the office all week I want something moderately sized, with four doors that isn’t a bore to drive. Consumers seem to agree.

In the case of a sportier Focus, the added performance comes at a price, the Focus RS with a few options is a $40k+ vehicle but consumers don’t seem to care. According to the same report, Focus ST and RS owners’ average household income is $108,000 and $169,000 respectively, much higher than the income of a regular Focus buyer ($63,000).

Other automakers are tapping into the performance variant model. The Honda Civic Type R will arrive soon with 307 horsepower. The WRX continues to sell well with its 268 horses. Nissan has joined the fray, transforming its compact sedan into the Sentra SR Turbo and Sentra NISMO. If Mazda would just slap a turbo and AWD into the 6 I would be a very happy man.

Consumers may not be interested in regular old econo-box cars, but they do love chirping tires. Injecting a little horsepower into existing midsize car lines goes a long way.

 

 

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