By Colin Bird on May 29, 2012
With the announcement of more sophisticated, technology-laden versions of the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala, you'd think the state of large, non-luxury family sedans was pretty sound, but think again.
Over just the past five years, the full-size family sedan market has seen its relevance halved, according to R.L. Polk & Co. The segment used to have 15 models, but in recent years that number has dwindled to just seven, says Polk. Subsequently, market share has dropped from slightly above 5% of all vehicles sold to just 2.3% in the first three months of the year, Polk reports. Today, the segment is only one-third the size of the minivan market, a segment long derided as "dead" and already abandoned by big movers and shakers like GM and Ford.
This story isn't exactly new; large family sedans have seen their relevance eroded, almost in perpetuity, since the 1973 oil crisis. The SUV craze in the '90s and later the discontinuation of Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury and Plymouth — historically strong brands in the large family sedan category — didn't help either. In recent years, the termination of the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis has been the main culprit in the sudden plunge in market share.
Despite several large cars coming online, including an all-new model called the Kia Cadenza, expect market share to continue to dwindle. That's because a large chunk of full-size sales today are attributable to the Chevrolet Impala, a perennial fleet queen. The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is a more premium sedan, and the majority of former Impala fleet sales are expected to transition to the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
In fact, as more consumers opt for midsize sedan offerings, which are more fuel efficient, cheaper and almost as big, automakers may conclude that it isn't cost-effective to design large sedans anymore, according to Polk.
Existing Large Family Sedans
Upcoming Large Family Sedans
Fullsize Cars Lose their Luster (R.L. Polk & Co.)