This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Drive Time.
Much has been made of the U.S. Big Three automakers greatly reducing the number of car models they are offering.
Ford announced plans last April to eliminate its most well-known cars in North America, including the Fiesta subcompact, Fusion midsize sedan and Taurus large sedan. Last November, General Motors announced it will stop making six models, including the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dropped the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart small cars in the summer of 2016.
But Nissan and its Asian counterparts — Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Mazda — are sticking it out with cars. And it might turn out to be incredibly wise, according to some recent research.
According to a survey of American car owners commissioned by Nissan, desire for sedans remains strong, particularly among millennials. Among overall respondents who don't currently own a sedan, 78% would consider buying one, and younger respondents reported an even higher affinity for the body style.
Of course, Nissan has a good reason to say that sedans are still vital, notes automotive lifestyle brand, Hagerty. The automaker recently introduced the latest version of the Versa subcompact sedan. Last year it launched an all-new Altima after spending $170 million in assembly plant upgrades for the midsize family car. Nissan also recently unveiled the refreshed Maxima, adding safety and convenience features along with updated styling.
"We see great opportunity in the sedan segment, which is why we're continuing to launch all-new and refreshed products," states Rob Warren, director and chief marketing manager at Nissan North America. "Sedans are still extremely popular with our customers, so as our competitors exit the category, they're creating even more prospects for Nissan.”
Nissan surveyed car owners and non-owners in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 65 and found: 78% of American drivers who don't own a sedan would consider buying one now or in the future, and 86% of those 18-34 years old (Generation Z and younger millennials) who don't own a sedan would consider buying one now or in the future. The same is true for 81% of older millennials and Generation X-ers (age 35-50).
U.S. sedan owners are just as satisfied with their cars (89%) as non-sedan owners (88%). SUVs and trucks don't have a monopoly on being seen as functional. Ninety-five percent of sedan owners listed functionality as the No. 1 thing they love about their car, versus 94% for non-sedan owners.
Younger buyers appreciate the features, versatility, fuel economy and value in sedans, Warren says.
"Sedan design has also come a long way, as these traditional four-door cars shed their generic look, add more technology and take on a more aggressive, stylish profile,” Warren states. “As sedans become more exciting to look at and to drive, younger buyers are putting sedans at the top of their consideration list.”
Clearly, Nissan is marching to the beat of a different drummer from Ford, GM and FCA -- and has research to back up its choices. Only time will tell if sticking it out with certain car models is the right thing to do.