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Carmakers shift to SUVs as buyers shun sedans

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

As the year draws to a close, auto companies are again celebrating a near-record number of cars and trucks sold and a near-record average transaction price per vehicle.

But the news isn't all good. New car sales for 2017 have been marked by demand for SUVs rising to unprecedented heights, while interest in traditional passenger cars has plummeted.

Many car companies that sell both kinds of vehicles have gained sales in one segment only to lose them in another. Manufacturers that lean more toward passenger cars could soon be stuck with factories and production lines making vehicles no one wants. If the trend continues, cars that once led sales segments could disappear altogether.

"This may mean that some successful car models are on the chopping block," said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer. "Basically everything in the large sedan category is an endangered species."

Year-to-date sales in the U.S., compiled by the auto data company TrueCar, are running slightly behind the all-time high for 2016. Together, carmakers sold 14,175,611 cars and trucks through October, compared with 14,427,310 last year, when the full-year total ended at a record 17.5 million vehicles sold.

Cars are selling for more money too. The average transaction price for a new car in October was $35,263, according to Kelley Blue Book, $100 over October 2016 and slightly off the all-time high set last December.


The strongest segments by far were trucks and SUVs, which both outpaced passenger cars. The top-selling sedan is only the sixth top-selling vehicle this year.

Going into the last two sales months of the year, full-size truck sales were more than 100,000 units ahead of the same period last year. SUV sales were up more than 350,000 units over 2016.

But those losses are largely erased by drops in other categories -- all of them passenger car groups.

All sedan categories were down.


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