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Motor Trends: Compact Sedans Spur U.S. Car Sales

Premium Sedans Sparked by “Car Selling Cars”

This year the sedan compacts in class carry hefty weight into the next new model season. Winners in each category should be singled out, inasmuch as this summer’s U.S. new-vehicle segments almost all posted gains in May 2014.

The premium sedan segment spearheaded the boomlot, surprising all with the affirmative votes across the board. Here are the high and low performers: F-Series-4.3%: Camry, up 26.4%; Silverado, up 7.8%; Accord up 7.8%; Ram up 17.2%; Corolla up 30.8%; Civic up 19.2%; Altima up 12 %; Fusion up 14.6%; CR-V up 18.8%; Cruze up 40.5%; (a top seller!); Escape up 9.5%; Prius up 13.9%; RAV4 up 12.9%; Equinox up 1.09%.

For the U.S. market as a whole, a total of 1.60 million held up in May, 794,000 cars and 811,600 in light trucks. The annual U.S. sales rate edged up to 16.7 million, the highest rate in seven years and dimming any expectations of a 20 million rate by 2020,
85% of cars were sold or leased in May’s sales.

Among surging brands were Mercedes’s new luxury 250 C-class sedan, a rival of VW’s Audi up market brand, which pushed its line to its second best month ever. Not to be outdone, #1 Toyota lifted its upscale Camry sedan to a near-record, 49,584 sales in May.

The U.S. market capitalized on dramatically appealing lease and loan terms, offered by Ally, Ford Credit and independent lenders. Most attractive are subcompact sedans such as Cruze, and step-up models like Camry, Mercedes CLA, BMW and Hyundai/Kia.

That up to 85% of new-car sales were leased in May (leased by all Europe-built and South Korean exports) should stir shoppers,

Mercedes TV commercials during the French Open tennis tournament were almost as clever as Porsche’s displays during summer selldowns, but where are Mercedes “Smart” small cars?, still mostly an overseas seller, competing with BMW’s MINI Cooper subcompacts.

Buyers this year have been moved by sedan upgrades as never before. Audi’s new A4 commanded a lot of space in the LA Times, while magazine reviewers applauded reviews of “all-new” Audis, Acuras and Mercedes CLAs.

At long last, sales battle lines have been drawn in the entry-level luxury market by four “affordable” sedans: builders-Acura RLX, Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes CLA 250. This is a step-up class, embracing all of the latest interior designs at suggested prices beginning at $30,825 for the highly advertised CLA250 and $33,798 for the long-awaited Audi A4.

Hands-down leader of this segment is a 4-door compact sedan with leather seats, a turbo 4-cylinder rated at 220hp with a 4k0 mpg average, is the Audi A4.

Parent Volkswagen has filled the 2015 Audi A3 with a raft of youth-appealing options that will compel competitors to catch up pronto-such as leather seats, a panoramic moon roof and a touch-rotary knob for commands. Adding step-up features are eight air bags and optional satellite radio. VW will add to its tech. Options this fall with diesel for Jetta and Golf.

The Mercedes CLA powertrain-a dual clutch 6-speed type-gives Audi and Acura a rugged challenger in the step-up segment above the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and the soon-to-emerge Jetta turbo diesel.

But until the LA auto show this fall, Acura RLX, Mercedes CLA and Audi A4 will be prime sellers for U.S. import new-car dealers.

Fearless Auto Forecast

The growing youth market will surge in demand worldwide, all through 2015 and make the best buy of all certified premium CPO compacts and subcompacts, led by Audi, Acura, and Mercedes. Toyota leads the Japanese brands pressuring the Germans to boost their overseas sales.