At a glance, it appears as if cheap gas has been driving the trend of consumers buying trucks and SUVs instead of fuel-efficient sedans and hatchbacks. Yet while $2 gas is surely a factor, it’s not the only reason highways are more likely to be packed nowadays with Honda CR-V and Ford Escape crossover SUVs rather than Toyota Priuses.
As Daniel Gross pointed out this week, today’s SUVs are not the gas guzzlers of yore. When a driver replaces a 10-year-old SUV with a brand new edition of the same model today, odds are that the buyer instantly gets double the fuel economy.
WardsAuto noted that hybrid sales—and those of the category-leading Toyota Prius in particular—have been falling steeply because of a range of factors including “low fuel prices, a slew of new competitors in the green-car space, polarizing styling and America’s light-truck love affair.”
It’s silly to think that drivers suddenly consider fuel efficiency unimportant. At the same time sales of hybrids and small gas-powered cars are slumping, plug-in electric car sales are hitting record highs in the U.S. What’s more, not all classic commuter cars have fallen on hard times. Honda Civic sales are up nearly 20% for the first half of 2016.
That said, many of the vehicles traditionally associated with solid fuel efficiency have been falling out of favor with American consumers. This is a trend that should be of interest to industry insiders and American drivers alike. After all, when car dealerships are having trouble selling a certain model, buyers has a lot more negotiating power. Therefore, you can expect good deals on these 10 cars, all of which have been suffering sales slumps lately.
Ford Fiesta: With a sticker price starting at $14,000 and highway fuel economy of 36 mpg, the Fiesta is a very affordable car to buy and own. But drivers haven’t been biting at their usual pace. Fiesta sales were down a whopping 49% in June compared with the same month a year ago, and down 28% for the first half of 2016.
Ford Focus: The Ford hatchback and sedan that’s a little larger and more expensive than the Fiesta boasts 42 mpg in highway driving in EcoBoost models. It sold roughly 12% fewer units during the first half of 2016.
Honda Fit: The subcompact Fit gets 41 mpg on the highway and starts under $16,000. Those specs haven’t been enough to hold off a slump. Though sales were up nearly 4% in June, overall they are down 23% thus far in 2016. During this same time span, its sister Civic model has experienced a sales increase of 20%.
Hyundai Elantra: On July 1, Hyundai USA reported it was enjoyed its “Best June and Midyear Sales Ever.” The same cannot be said of the Elantra (29 mpg in city, 38 mpg highway), which has been selling this year at a pace 25% lower than that of 2015.
Toyota Camry: Even America’s best-selling sedan has hit a slump. The Camry (24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway), the country’s best-selling car (trucks not included) for 14 years running, sold 13% fewer units in June, and sales are down over 7% for the year.
Toyota Corolla: The Camry’s smaller, cheaper sibling, the Corolla, has regularly owned the title of world’s best-selling car. Sales have been slow in 2016, however, down more than 4% compared with the first half of 2015. For that matter, overall Toyota sales are down nearly 3% this year.
Toyota Prius: The groundbreaking hybrid, which Toyota thought would one day be as big a seller as the Camry, has been in a sales malaise for years. Sales fell roughly 12% from 2013 to 2014, and then fell another 16% or so the next year. Despite the release of a newer, superior model with better mileage (52 mpg combined, up from 50 mpg previously this year), Prius sedan sales are down 10.5% thus far in 2016.
Volkswagen Passat: Volkswagen as a whole has been having a bad 2016, likely partly the aftermath of the diesel scandal, in which the automaker admitted to falsifying vehicle emissions data and will pay owners thousands of dollars each in compensation. Sales are down nearly 15% across the board for VW in America, with sales of the Jetta, Passat (38 mpg highway), and Beetle down 13%, 22%, and 48%, respectively.