Through the first eight months of 2017, consumers across America have acquired 12 percent fewer new passenger cars than during the first eight months of 2016.
That’s a drop of 565,000 sales, a rate of decline that stands in stark contrast to the U.S. auto industry’s 4-percent year-over-year light truck improvement.Â Cars now account for just 37 percent of all auto sales, down from more than 50 percent as recently as 2012.Â But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some auto brandsÂ are selling more cars this year than last, and a wide variety of cars are accelerating their sales pace. Subaru, for example, has already sold 17,981 more Imprezas in 2017 than in the same period of 2016.
So we’ve compiled a list of every passenger car that’s making meaningful headway in America’s anti-car market â€” the cars that are selling more and more often even as many of their competitors suffer under the weight of a pro-F150, pro-RAV4, pro-Escalade ESV wave.
The list is not very long.
For the Subaru Impreza, or any newly launched model, year-over-year tallies are often aided by the fact that sales had tapered off in the prior year as customers waited for the launch of a new model. Indeed, Impreza sales slowed 17 percent in 2016 in advance of the current model’s arrival. Nevertheless, Subaru is on track to more than meet historic Impreza demand levels. Not including the WRX/STI offshoots, the Impreza sedan and hatch are on track for nearly 85,000 sales in 2017, well ahead of historic rates.
The Volkswagen Golf, meanwhile, is reaping the benefits of a fast-growing SportWagen/Alltrack variant. Golf hatchback sales are up, but only by 2 percent. Yet with the Alltrack bolstering the SportWagen, wagons now account for 41 percent of U.S. Golf sales, up from 21 percent a year ago.
Premium nameplates account for more than one-quarter of the cars on the list. In the case of the Audi A4, sales of Audi’s 3 Series challenger are on track for to rise to aÂ post-recession high. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, on the other hand, is simply recovering from a particularly low stretch â€” E-Class sales in 2017 are still on track to be 30 percent lower than they were three years ago.At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mitsubishi Mirage is up 5 percent, helped by the launch of a blisteringly hot and spicy Mirage G4 sedan. 2017 is set to be the fourth consecutive year of Mirage sales growth.
But it’s at the top of the heap where a 96-percent year-over-year improvement allows Audi’s expanded, second-generation A5 lineup to earn Most Improved credentials. After falling to an eight-year low at the end of the first-gen A5’s tenure in 2016, Audi has already reported more A5 sales in 2017’s first eight months than in all of 2016. Over the last four months, May through August, A5 Coupe/Cabriolet/Sportback sales have nearly tripled. If that rate of growth continues in the final third of 2017, this yearÂ will match 2013 as the A5 lineup’s best year ever.
That doesn’t sound like doom and gloom, at least not for this small group of cars flying directly into blustery headwinds.
For the purposes of this list, with sales info sourced from automakers and more detailed figures from the Automotive News Data Center, we sought out cars with meaningful volume of at least 1,000 U.S. sales per month (thereby excluding low-volume models more prone to sharp year-over-year percentage swings). We also excluded any models that weren’t on sale throughout the first eight months of 2016, vehicles that would obviously report much higher sales this year than last. 16 cars remained.
[Images: Subaru, Audi, Volkswagen]
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.