Looking at this month's numbers, I'd say it's time to call it. Since fuel prices have plummeted, small car sales have followed suit. This month, of the 25 models listed that have been on sale for at least a year, 19 of them showed decreases in sales compared to this time in 2015. The only models with increases were the Mazda Miata, Mitsubishi Mirage, Chevrolet Trax, Buick Encore, Nissan Versa, and Hyundai Accent. Of those, the Trax and Encore are mechanical twins. Amazingly, the Mirage is up a whopping 65.3% compared to this time last year, too. Maybe people really do want a simple, inexpensive car with a great warranty.
The biggest loser in March was the MINI Paceman. Honestly, I thought they stopped selling them. However, I was able to find 2016 models for sale on MINI lots. MINI sold just 15 units. The car will be discontinued after 2016, but it's still for sale now. BMW's subcompact electric i3 is also skimming the bottom with a -63.9% decline, and the Fiat 500 and 500L are also near the bottom of the list yet again.
It's likely that low fuel prices are to blame for the low overall sales, and as I've mentioned for the last few months, it's likely sales will continue to slide overall.
Right now the Miata is an outlier, since it's a two-door sports car and it's super hot. I fully expect its sales to cool over the year. The smaller CUVs are probably going to continue to sell well because, well, because they're small CUVs and people are in love with them. The Mirage is one of the least expensive cars for sale in the U.S. and it has a fantastic warranty, so it may end up owning that niche. By the way, it outsold the recently redesigned Chevrolet Spark nearly 2:1 this month. It's cars like the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, and Ford Fiesta that I wonder about for the long haul.
ARE SMALL CARS ON THEIR WAY OUT?
I don't believe small cars are on their way out just yet. The manufacturers always have their pulse on what consumers are buying, and right now it's bigger cars, pickups, and SUVs. Larger cars are getting better fuel economy, too so the demand for the small ones may be, well, smaller. Keep in mind that there will always be room for an entry-level vehicle in certain automakers' lineups. Even when there weren't many small cars for sale back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Toyota still had the Tercel and Echo; Chevrolet still had the Metro; Hyundai still had the Accent. However, without a gas spike or a dip in the economy, small car sales will likely continue to fall until they hit a point where sales level out. The question is which models will survive the drop?
Anyway, here are full stats on March's sales.
|Make/Model||%YTD Mar. '16 vs. '15||Units Mar. '16||% YTD Mar. '16 vs '15||Units YTD|
|Mazda MX-5 Miata||104.9||1090||74.4||2409|
|MINI Cooper /S Hardtop 4 Dr||-13.9||1300||4.8||3452|
|Toyota Prius c||-32.3||2607||-25.3||6633|
|MINI Cooper /S Hardtop 2 Dr||-47.2||1122||-33.3||3286|
|MINI Cooper/S Clubman||1037||1695|