Family sedans losing ground to crossovers on convenience, price

Wed May 1, 2013 8:20pm EDT
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By Deepa Seetharaman and Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are losing ground this year as American families and empty-nest baby boomers find they would rather handle life's daily chores in a crossover.

Midsize sedans remain the single largest segment of the U.S. auto industry. But their share of the industry has shrunk this year, alongside a gain for vehicles like the Ford Escape, executives and analysts said on Wednesday.

"While the segment is still growing year-over-year, it's nowhere near what it was growing last year as the industry was launching a lot of new midsize cars," Bill Fay, the U.S. head of the Toyota brand, said during a call with reporters to discuss U.S. auto sales in April.

U.S. auto sales are being propelled by pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, as shown by U.S. auto sales in April by major automakers.

Crossovers, which are SUVs built on a car-based platform, are appealing because they offer more space for groceries and golf clubs than the typical sedan, and they are easier for people to enter and exit. And fuel mileage is improving.

Perhaps most importantly, the price gap has narrowed between midsize sedans and compact crossovers like the Ford Motor Co Escape, and the Toyota Motor Corp RAV4 and the Honda Motor Co CR-V.

A small crossover costs just $1,300 more than the typical family sedan, according to Kelley Blue Book. Excluding state taxes, this amounts to less than $20 in monthly payments in some cases.

"Fundamentally, both serve the family market," said Mustafa Mohatarem, General Motors Co's chief economist.   Continued...

A Toyota Camry is seen at the Chicago Auto Show February 9, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress