Ford, GM, and the Future of the American Sedan

The current auto market hasn’t been kind to the sedan. Long the go-to for those requiring a spacious ride, the four-door car has been pushed aside in our anxious, post-911 world as drivers seek to mask their existential securities behind the wheel of a high-riding crossover or SUV.

There are a few other factors edging sedans out of the buyer’s eyes: small vehicles have gotten much better at maximizing interior space while larger vehicles have additional seating to help accommodate more people when necessary. Coupled with the advancements in engineering, and the near-parity on gas mileage between large and small vehicles, and buyers are splitting their needs to the extremes, leaving the Goldilock’s just-right of sedans by the wayside.

Manufacturers have responded to this in different ways. All have pushed to get more crossovers on the road as buyers have demonstrated an affinity for small vehicles that ride high. Seven-seaters have become an integral part of any brands lineup, as minivans continue to be shunned as suburban prisons.

Ford recently stated that they’ll be stepping away from the sedan market altogether. Sagging sales has hurt their bottom line, and, instead of finding ways to make the segment more attractive to their base, they’re instead targeting cars succeeding in other segments.

Ford CUV

This may be a huge misfire for the Michigan-based company. Cox Automotive did a survey of Ford owners and found that of those who own sedans, half will leave Ford for another nameplate and that only 10% consider moving to crossovers.

General Motors, on the other hand, has just come out stating that they’ll stay committed to their sedan lineup. At about 4 million buyers, they see strong value in continuing to build three-box cars. And, as the competition fails to satisfy these needs, the General hopes to see their market share increase.

Car sales account for just 32% of the auto market, down from 46% in 2014. It’s clear to see why execs question the value of a format on a downswing. And though sedans are cheaper to build than crossovers, they have narrower profit margins.

Conquest Knight

It’ll be interesting to see what happens long-term. A huge reason SUVs/CUVs have taken off is the sense of safety that comes from being in a larger vehicle. When high-riding vehicles become the new normal, will that push crossover owners to look for even larger vehicles in an attempt to maintain that sense of safety?


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