Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: April 2012

Eight of March's 10 best-sellers returned to the table in April, but one of the newbies may surprise you. In March, an incentive-heavy Nissan Altima fell just 1,517 cars short of the redesigned Toyota Camry, clinching the No. 2 best-selling car position. Incentives remain high, but Altima sales dropped drastically enough to knock it off the top 10 list. Instead, shoppers drifted toward the Honda Accord and Toyota Prius.

The Accord, one of April's two newcomers, gained 25.6% last month, snapping three months' sales malaise to fall just 1,435 cars short of the hard-charging, recently redesigned Camry. The shift surprised us, given the Accord is in its final year before a redesign while incentives are about the same as a year ago.

There's little surprise that the Prius' sales catapulted 101.7% despite gas prices leveling off this month. Three new Prius variants — a subcompact Prius c, larger Prius v and rechargeable Prius Plug-in — accounted for 76% of that rise. Strip those away, however, and even the original Prius handily outpaced its year-ago sales.

The Chevrolet Malibu is this month's other newcomer. Malibu sales are down, but April 2011 was a banner month for the sedan. If the Malibu and Accord reshuffled the deck for top-selling family cars, their compact counterparts stayed in closer order. Despite stable incentives, the aging Toyota Corolla stayed in the top 10. The redesigned Honda Civic fell 8.8% but stayed put, too. However, the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra lined up offstage, with Elantra and Cruze sales down more than 20%. Focus sales were up 12.5% but not enough to keep a top 10 ranking.

Detroit's pickup trucks gained some traction in April, as combined sales for the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Chrysler's Ram trucks gained 7.4%.

April auto sales are projected to rise just 2% when all the numbers are in, falling short of the auto industry's double-digit rise in the first three months of 2012. GM and Ford posted slight losses, while Chrysler's meteoric rise continued with its best April since 2008. Toyota took up some of the slack, with sales up 11.6%, while Hyundai-Kia, Nissan and Honda stayed about even.

Why the slowing? For starters, April overlapped five weekends, leaving buyers three fewer days to shop than a year ago. The difference in selling days typically amounts to a day or two; only twice in the last decade has there been three fewer days, GM spokesman James Cain noted.

Moreover, April saw the incentives gap narrow for the first time in months. CNW Marketing Research data show car buyers reaped 15% off the average MSRP in total dealer and automaker incentives. But rising MSRPs outpaced the discounts, so transaction prices shot up: The average car sold for $31,216 in April, or $1,657 (5.6%) more than a year ago.

This month's numbers might seem average, but they portend a stabilizing in the industry. April 2011 also saw relatively normal inventories from Japanese automakers as the impact of the March tsunami hadn't been felt at the dealer level. We expect May 2012 sales for Japanese automakers to have huge spikes versus 2011 numbers that saw drastic drops versus 2010. The upswing in 2012 could look shocking.



Nice to see the Accord take it's place back from the Altima! The president of Nissan Motor Co. Recently made the statement that the Altima would never be second to the Accord again, and that it was all about Nissan and Toyota now. Ha! Guess again.


I know of two people in the past week who passed up Accords for the new Camry. They were both previous Accord owners, but felt that they were cheap and lacked any style on the inside (too big). I tried to push the Fusion or to wait for new models, but they just wouldn't listen.


"so its starting to look like the Accord really will drop from the #2 slot in the midsize segment for the long term. This is more than a tsunami related aberration."

Max Reid

Wow, finally Prius has made it to Top-5 overall and last month it was #6.

Day is not far when it will jump ahead of Ford F Series. There was a time when, F Series, Silverado and RAM were in Top-3 and way ahead of Camry.

Now Camry is able to jump into #2 and RAM is not even in Top-5.


Altima is still way ahead of the Accord YTD. This is just one month. There are a lot of things that can affect any car's sales in one particular month.


I know it hurts to put up this chart. Nissan was barely affected by quake so their performance is a reflection of the improved competition and an aging lineup. ... Its very possible than civic and accord will be outsold by their counterparts at ford and chevy for first time in a long time."


"The results shown above reflect better vehicles from america and korea as well as better styling. Honda will regret the minor changes made to the civic in due time. The market is too competitive for people to settle on mediocrity, even if its branded a honda or toyota."


I'm impressed to see the Prius up there in the top 5. Now I'd just like to see more cars from the Big 3 on the list. For me, I'd rather the Ford Focus than the current Civic (although I prefer the Mazda3 to either).


These sales numbers are not surprising. We just traded my wife's 2007 Civic for a 2012 CR-V 4X4. Love it!

My grandson recently traded his Canyon for a 2012 F150 Ecoboost -- really a nifty engine if you live in the Rocky Mountain area. That turbocharger really makes a difference at altitude.

And our daughter traded her old Camry for the new 2012 Camry.

You go with what you like, and the chart shows what Americans like. F150 nr 1. Camry nr 2, and Civic also in the running. Not too shabby.


Looks like things are getting back to normal for Toyota and Honda.

Maat C.

@ Max Reid
If the Prius takes tops the pickups that will sign the death of the small business in America. That would be a bad thing. You can't haul anything in a Prius.


I think the reason that the Nissan Altima dropped out of the top 10 is because the 2013 model is set to hit the market this month. My guess is that Nissan stopped producing 2012 Altimas some time ago, and thus there weren't many to sell in April.

One of the undocumented features of the Prius is it has a reasonable towing capability. All it lacks are stronger rear springs that can be added, after-market. I know because I've towed 1,700 lbs of trailer and airplane over 600 miles and others are towing similar loads. Individual Prius owners, like the first plug-in Prius conversions, are expanding the envelope. We can only hope Toyota 'gets a clue' and shares the Prius towing capabilities and/or comes out with a light pickup truck and utility van.


2012 Altima only fell off this month, because we all saw the 2013 Altima, which has class leading economy, fetures, and acceleration. Altima buyers are holding off for the new model. Altima is still #2 so far this year, and with the new car coming in June or July Altima will be challenging Camry for #1 by the end of the year

Matt Cat

I hope Toyota does not listen to Bob Wilson. I do not want to be stuck behind the modern day equivalent of the VW microbus pickup on the high way. Bob uniframe cars are not designed to tow heavy loads. Yes there is a safety factor built in to the towing rating and because of this idiots like you have been lucky enough not to do major frame damage when towing heavy loads.


My first Honda was a '79 Accord. It completely converted me away from buying another "Big-Three" vehicle for 20 years. Now I drive a diesel VW golf and a Dodge Crew-cab pickup. My only wish is for a 1/2 ton diesel pickup which the manufacturers are reluctant to produce. I would gladly consider an electric car if the cost wasn't so high, but the manufacturers seem to be trying to make a killing on these as well. Natural gas is starting to look like the best long-term solution, but again everyone seems shy at moving forward with these in earnest.


I don't think any manufacturer is making a killing on an electric vehicle they are producing. I'd say they are taking a killer loss on each vehicle sold.


The Corolla still made the list even though it's the only one in its category with a 4-Speed Auto and have been ranked last in MANY compassion test. In every compassion test I've seen, the reviewer said how inferior it was when compared to its competitor.

Does this mean people are stupid?

Wow my car is at the second place! Guess it's really popular among normal drivers. Thanks for the information Kelsey!

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