U.S. sales of the Nissan Versa took off in September 2011 after Nissan made a big deal of the new Versa sedan’s legroom, headroom, and low, low price. Nissan is attempting to persevere with the old Versa hatch for now, but the $10,990 sedan helped Nissan post a 68% year-over-year Versa volume increase.
There’s no doubt that subcompact customers would be better served by the 2012 Hyundai Accent 5-door or the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback than the unfortunately ugly Versa sedan. Both those cars feature a higher base price, something Versa customers clearly can’t get over. It’s not as though there’s any overwhelming reason to choose the Versa besides its price.
The Versa’s more expensive compact sibling is the Nissan Sentra, sales of which were also on the upswing in September 2011. Sentra sales were high enough to make it the 19th-best-selling car in America last month. However, aside from the Versa, seven compact rivals sold in greater numbers.
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If the Versa is the story of the small car category, the Nissan Altima’s 22% improvement and 24,356 September sales makes it a candidate for top newsmaker in the midsize class. Sure, the Toyota Camry found more buyers – it almost always does – but while we wait for the 2012 model to bring Camry sales back up to par, September’s 5918-unit loss doesn’t merit the Camry greater attention.
The brand new Kia Optima is beginning to have a more serious impact on the category. Sales jumped 206% in September, although the month-to-month gains from August measured just 34 units. The Optima accounted for 17% of all Kia U.S. sales last month. It was the brand’s third-best-selling model.
Sales of the Optima’s platform-mate, the Hyundai Sonata, slid 12% in September. It’s not crazy to think that the Optima’s success comes at the expense of falling Sonata sales, though the theory may prove inaccurate. Moreover, the Sonata remains Hyundai’s best-selling model and was responsible for nearly one-third of the brand’s September sales.
THE ABOVE CHART MAY SAY AUGUST, BUT IT REFERS TO SEPTEMBER SALES
A very negative picture could be painted in regards to mainstream large cars and their suffering September sales. Ignore the premium-badged and defunct Cadillac DTS and Lincoln Town Car for now. Set aside the dying Buick Lucerne and the police-only Chevrolet Caprice, as well.
Buick LaCrosse sales were down 8.5% in September. The Ford Taurus was off by 38%. Toyota Avalon sales slid slightly, down 1.2% from September 2010 levels. Dodge reported a 23% decline.
That leaves the Chrysler 300 – and its impressive 50% jump – and the Nissan Maxima’s 26% improvement. Thing is, the 300 is down 20% year-to-date. The Maxima is down 7% this year.