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In the US automobile sector, the market for mid-size family sedans is shrinking because of the increasing attraction of SUVs that are big, spacious, powerful, and provide immense road presence. But that doesn't mean the sedan segment can't be rejuvenated.
Honda and Toyota Aren't Giving Up on the Sedan Segment
Honda ($HMC) ups the ante in the declining but crowded US sedan segment with the 2018 version of its flagship sedan, the Accord. It also takes the fight to archrival Toyota ($TM) that will soon launch its 2018 Camry, America's bestselling sedan. Obviously, Honda and Toyota are hitching their bets on their respective flagship sedans, believing they are great enough to help them achieve the required sales in spite of the decline in the sedan segment in the United States. Both these flagship sedans are superior to the other rival flagship sedans such as the Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.
Honda and Toyota are emphasizing the sportier nature of the sedans, improved space, a choice of sporty engines plus a hybrid option, and richer features to draw consumers away from SUVs. It is basically about infusing in consumers a perception that while SUVs may be cool, these particular sedans are cooler and smarter options.
How Honda Is Targeting Segment Supremacy with the Accord
While Toyota revealed its 2018 Camry back in January, Honda has revealed its 2018 Accord only recently, in mid-July. This 10th generation Accord is new in every way. Its monocoque chassis is lighter and more rigid, making it better handling and sportier while improving its fuel efficiency. It has a wheelbase that is longer by over two inches, giving it better handling and more legroom in the rear seat. Its roofline tapering towards the rear gives it a sportier, grand touring (GT) silhouette.
Its three engine options include a hybrid powertrain - which is a revised version of what the Accord already has - with a 10-speed automatic transmission plus two gasoline engines with 6-speed manual transmission that are likely to appeal more to enthusiasts. It also comes with Honda Sensing, the full range of high tech driver-assist features.
Toyota Hopes to Remain Segment Leader with New Camry
Toyota's new Camry is also a lot sportier, and its attractive low-slung shape is the external sign of its sportiness. Gone is the monotony traditionally associated with the Camry model range. It's now sporty and youthful combined with the traditional Toyota qualities of reliability and hassle-free ownership. The sportiness is evident in the interiors too, with a redesigned dashboard that is more fluidic and sporty with large speedometer and tachometer round gauges.
Engine options include a 2.5 liter four-cylinder unit, a more power 3.5 liter V6, and a hybrid system with a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine and CVT automatic transmission. For the sake of driving enthusiasts wanting a better experience, the CVT transmission also comes with a Sport Mode that simulates the experience of a six-speed manual transmission.
Honda ($HMC) and Toyota ($TM) are certainly going at it with full force, and it could well be that the family sedan segment could be rejuvenated. Sales of midsize cars dipped 12% in 2016 and a further 18% in the first half of 2017. But Honda could still sell around 345,000 Accords last year in the United States, while Toyota sold 388,618 Camrys.
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