Despite Slew of Upcoming Models, Large Family Sedans Are an Endangered Species

2012 Hyundai Azera

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.)

Related:
Full-Size Sedan Buying Guide 
More Automotive News on Cars.com 
More Auto Industry News on Cars.com

Comments 

DC

It's sad that the mid size Impala is considered a full size car. I believe the minivan and large crossover segments are responsible for the downward trend of full size cars. Too bad, because you can fit as many people and get better gas mileage from a sedan/wagon.

Real Gomer

My Dad had a 1994 Lincoln Town Car that got an honest 25MPG at 65MPH. Or was it 70MPH? I can't remember but it was while driving from Niagara Falls to Cincinnati via Philadelphia. Today's "midsize" cars are lucky to do that. The tech to hit higher MPG has been around since the 50s and is still in use on semi-tractors.

Scott

It's a shame really. I'm in my mid 20's and actually love full size cars, and grew up in olds 88s, and other large cars.

I think the problem is two fold: Midsize cars now on the larger side just inches away from becoming classified as full-size, and people still wanting large cars the size of 70s cars and subcontiously buying SUVs because their larger.

Cars all sizes have become designed to be global, and thus have decreased in it's with, making them as narrow as compact cars. Most of these modern sedans share that same size.

Suvs, including crossovers offer more seating while offering the exterior size of full size sedans in their hayday, thus fullfilling a role lost. I truly believe that most SUV owners of that era would say that they like cars that big and it's why they like the bulk of the SUV that was lost in current full sizes.

We have a family of four and always had room in our 88. I think chrysler has a good lineup going with the 200 smaller 4cyl midsize and then offering a rwd 300, because then you out corner the camrys of this world by offering two segments no one caters too. There's no need for a Taurus, Maxima, & Impala if their the same size as their midsize offerings.

Highdesertcat

I've owned several fullsize sedans and wagons over the past four decades and I agree that fullsize sedans are going the way of the dodobird. Actually, it is long overdue!

Minivans, SUVs and CUVs can do anything big sedans can do and do them better and safer. Four door pickup trucks are the new replacement for all-purpose family vehicles.

I've had my favorites among the sedans we've owned, like my wife's 1992 Towncar, and my Olds Toronado, and even my Olds Custom Cruiser Wagon. They were really something in their day.

But in today's world whatever those sedans of the past could do is now done better in our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2008 Highlander.

Better ride, better handling, better visibility, better fuel economy, better safety features -- the list of betters is long.

My daily driver has always been a truck, so for me the demise of the big sedan is no big deal. I rarely drive our JGC or Highlander.

What I need to do I can do in my 2011 Tundra.

Jeff

Hyandai Sonotas, Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys, Chevy Malibus, Ford Fusions, Kia Spectrims, Chrysler 200s, Buick Lacross, and Dodge Avengers are becoming the new full size. The interior space on these models is about as much and with no spare tire the truck size is sufficient. The trend to direct injected turbo charged 4 cylinders and hybrid or e-assist makes these cars more fuel efficient in a time of rising fuel costs. Sure they are not the same but then with crossovers and minivans added to the choices this works for most consumers. We live in an ever changing world with changes is products and life styles.

I always find it hard to find a family car that has style, there are some really nice ones this year and think i may go car shopping sometime this year

Dan

does this include the likes of 7 Series BMW, S Class Mercedes, Audi A8's...are their sales slowing? seems like I see alot of them

Parrots

Dan,

Are they family sedans? I'm not exactly sure the average family could come close to affording those cars.

Jeff,

What the heck is a Kia Spectrim? Don't you mean the Kia Optima?

Highdesertcat

Jeff, the interior of the old full-size sedans was humongous compared to the interiors of the Camry, Accord, Impala, Taurus and Sonata.

I have owned several used Cadillac Sedan de Ville and Buick Park Avenue sedans as well and the term "land yacht" comes to mind. They handled about as well.

But those huge interiors also meant an even larger exterior and redundant bulk. That's changed.

Back then it was all about traveling long distances in comfort, something that only wide, long-wheelbase vehicles could offer.

You could easily spend 16 hours behind the wheel driving from coast to coast.

I wouldn't advise doing that in a Camry, Accord, Impala, Taurus or Sonata. The cramped accommodations would wear you out after a couple of hours.

But an SUV/CUV is different. We have spend 16 hour traveling days in our Jeep Grand Cherokee, no problem. Ditto with our Highlander. Seating position and space play a big part in comfort.

Even my Tundra is more comfortable on long road trips than the Camry, Accord, et al. I've spent 16 hours towing a travel-trailer and still felt good enough to prep it for the night at a camp site.

John Doe

The Camry is way more comfortable than a truck, suv, or cuv. The Camry rides better, doesn't feel like its going to flip at any moment, and has plenty of room for the driver. Who cares about the passangers. If they complain they can walk or take Greyhound.

Kat

What exactly ever happened to the Ford Excursions? Why did Ford discontinue them? There great vehicles, especially the Excursions that have the 7.3L engines in them.

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