Ford, Chevy subcompact gains threat Japanese domination image

Although a few years ago the subcompact market was a Toyota and Honda affair, now Ford and Chevrolet account for almost a fourth of all subcompact sales in the United States.

In July, Nissan’s Versa led entry-level subcompact cars with 9,007 units sold in America. The Ford Fiesta took second place, followed by the Chevrolet Sonic, while Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris trailed. The top-selling subcompact vehicle, the Kia Soul, is part of a different competitive set, with other sporty, non-entry crossovers such as the Nissan Juke and Scion xB.

“The domestics are getting really, really good at building small vehicles,” acknowledges Fred Diaz, U.S. sales and marketing head for Nissan Division, whose Versa still reigns as king of the entry-level segment. “Many years ago, the domestic OEMs couldn’t imagine that the Asian imports would be able to come in and be as strong as they were. We don’t want to make the same mistake now and turn a blind eye to the domestics.”

In order to stop the local gain, Japanese automakers plan to bring out a new generation of North America-made small cars selling at lower prices – but competition will be very tough, as analysts predict small market share growth for subcompact cars.