Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ford Will Abandon Most Cars. What's This Say About The Current Small Car Climate?

We've already talked about how Ford is saying Adios to the Fiesta. However, a couple of days ago, we learned FoMoCo is also letting the Focus and Fusion die on the vine in favor of other market segments. What's all this mean? Is this a sign of things to come in North America?

With Ford abandoning both the B- and C-segments (as well as the mid-sized sedan segment) in favor of SUVs, CUVs, and trucks, the company will no longer offer an entry-level vehicle or smaller car. Sure, they'll have the EcoSport (assuming the subcompact crossover makes the cut after a couple of years), but even the EcoSport starts at just about $20,000 USD. While, we will be sad to see another couple of small cars leave the market, we understand that Ford would rather focus on more profitable, hot market segments. The timing is somewhat ironic, as fuel prices are climbing (current national average is $2.81; our state of Oregon's average is $3.19).

But let's keep something in mind: Bigger cars—even SUVs/CUVs—are getting better fuel economy than they ever have. Meanwhile, low-margin subcompact cars are still around the mid-to-upper 30s, and sometimes, low 40s for MPG. It's not an earth-shattering difference, and most Americans prefer larger cars. Again, I get it. I don't like it, but I get it.

Keep in mind FCA killed off the Dart and 200 sedans a couple of years ago, however, the Fiat brand soldiers on, despite being down 47% vs. this time in 2017. Chevy is still offering the tiny Spark, the Sonic (for the time being, despite talk it's going away), and the compact Cruze. If, however, the Sonic does go the way of the dinosaur, it will leave the domestic automakers without any B-segment entries and only one C-segment (Cruze). However, the big three aren't too worried, apparently.


This means the Asia-based automakers will have most of the small cars. Will they follow suit and start lopping off their B- and C-segment cars?

Honda still offers its fantastic Fit. In fact, we just drove the '18 Fit Sport with the 6MT, and will have a review soon. I also can't imagine it's jettisoning its Civic anytime soon. As mentioned, Hyundai still offers the Accent, albeit in sedan form only. The Korean automaker is also bringing the new Veloster over, too. Kia recently refreshed its Rio lineup, so don't expect it to float away in the near future, and the Soul continues to spin the giant hamster-wheel-o-cash. While Mazda hasn't offered a subcompact hatchback since the Mazda2 (unless you count the Toyota Yaris iA), it's little Miata—while niche—ain't going nowhere. Mitsubishi still sells its three-cylinder Mirage in both sedan and hatchback variants. However, it axed the long-in-the-tooth Lancer model last year. Nissan still moves a megaton of Versas each month (to the tune of 10,000+), so I expect it to stick around. Finally, Toyota still sells the aging Yaris liftback (somewhat amazingly, I'll add) as well as the Mazda-built Yaris iA sedan.

This list does not mention a single subcompact CUV, of which there are many: Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Kicks, and Toyota CH-R, which we recently reviewed, just to name a few. Sure, they're bigger than a Mini Cooper, but Mini Coopers are getting bigger, too!

The new small car market is getting, well, smaller, but there are still lots of options, especially compared to about 12 years ago, which seems like forever ago, but sometimes, not so much. It wasn't that long ago that your only options for small cars were a Toyota Echo and a Chevrolet Metro. So let's not fret ... yet.


Barry Traylor said...

Damned if I want to drive a truck or SUV the size of Wyoming.

Greg Prosmushkin said...
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