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Honda Accord & Toyota Camry Buyers — What The Heck Are You Doing?

Honda and Toyota have been smart, logical choices for American car buyers for decades. Once upon a time, they were the new kids on the block and they had to prove themselves with strong “performance for the money” or “value for the money” propositions. They did so, repeatedly, and they grew their market shares as a result.

Honda and Toyota cars have been smart, logical choices for American car buyers for decades. Once upon a time, Honda and Toyota were the new kids on the block and had to prove themselves with strong “performance for the money” or “value for the money” propositions. They did so, repeatedly, and they grew their market share gradually as a result. The Japanese car companies are benefiting from that history today.

Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Corolla models, in particular, have long been known for their competitive mixture of quality, fuel economy, and “middle class pricing.” Like the look of a Honda more? Get the Accord or Civic. Like the brand and design of a Toyota more? Get a Camry or Corolla.

Nowadays, while many buyers see these automakers and models in the same way as they did a decade or three ago, a growing number of others see Toyota and Honda as far behind the times, well behind the curve on the core automobile tech transition of this decade and even this century.

Tesla Model 3 fleet

For example, you can now buy a Tesla Model 3 that has better safety, better performance, similar size inside and out, and clearly much more advanced tech while spending the same amount of money over the course of  about 5 years. (See some example comparisons with the Accord, Camry, Civic, or Corolla.) The shocking thing is that so many people still have no idea about this and go buy a high-cost inferior product — of course, without comparing the products on the market in 2019. Month after month in the United States, tens of thousands of people buy a Camry or Accord. There are a few reasons why, but the core one, in my opinion, is that they are simply not that aware of the Model 3, or have even been misinformed about the Model 3 or about Tesla.

Nonetheless, there was a bit of a surprise for me while collecting vehicle sales data for the US in recent weeks, a surprise that so many people continue buying these lower tech, less safe, slower cars that might cost about the same amount as a Model 3. Let’s put it another way: the Camry and Accord have nearly no advantages over the Tesla Model 3, have numerous major disadvantages, and yet see tens of thousands of sales a month.

Monthly US Car Sales — Top 4 Models

Car January February March April May June July August
Toyota Camry 23,802 24,267 33,615 29,227 36,208 28,889 27,134 31,986
Honda Civic 21,553 22,979 33,653 28,436 32,800 29,751 29,167 34,808
Toyota Corolla 25,113 29,016 24,479 19,679 25,712 28,869 30,635 30,121
Honda Accord 18,786 20,254 25,371 19,239 23,892 21,893 24,144 30,558

As you can see, Accord and Camry sales are not diving. They aren’t even hurting. Honda and Toyota just published great sales figures for August, and for January–August.

I would bet good money that more than 95% of the buyers of those Accords and Camrys:

  • did not drive a Tesla Model 3 before buying their cars.
  • did not know that the Model 3 is far safer.
  • did not know about the much more advanced tech in a Tesla.
  • had no clue that a 5 year cost of ownership on a Tesla (a Model 3) could potentially match the 5 year cost of ownership on an Accord or Camry.

Change takes time. It’s difficult. Most of us are not inclined to change unless we have to. We are inclined to repeat habits indefinitely unless strongly stimulated or shaken out of them. We are inclined to keep assumptions in our heads for years that should be revisited, evaluated, and updated much more frequently. We are inclined to think somewhat new technology isn’t for us unless we’ve seen a few people we know adopt it. We have a tendency to think a smart purchase we made 10 years ago would again be a smart purchase today. We are not inclined to be leaders.

In actuality, there are not that many cases today where buying an Accord or Camry is an objectively logical choice over buying a Model 3. There are certainly not 50,000+ such cases each month. If you want greater safety for the money, a Model 3 makes more sense. If you want greater performance for the money, a Model 3 makes more sense. If you want more advanced tech for the money, a Model 3 makes more sense. If you want better infotainment for the money, a Model 3 makes more sense.

Tesla Model 3

For many new car buyers, Tesla driving range is well beyond what they need. If they can charge at home, or even at work, they benefit from much more convenience and time savings compared to life with a  gasoline car. Time spent personally refueling or recharging on a road trip is similar except in extreme edge cases. In net, a Tesla Model 3 ownership probably provides more convenience and some degree of time savings each year compared to Accord or Camry ownership.

When you have a car that beats a BMW on performance, beats a Volvo on safety, and competes with a Camry or Accord (or even Corolla or Civic) on cost of ownership, the choice should be clear.

Tesla Model 3, S, X fleet

It’s not just about the US, either. Overall, the Camry and its rebadged sibling the Aurion had 622,316 sales worldwide last year, while the Accord had 499,594 sales. They will probably see similar sales figures in 2019. Camry and Accord sales should be tanking, and I’m sure they will — but the question is simply about how long it takes for mainstream consumers to catch on. (You can now buy a Tesla Model 3 in markets that account for about 80% of annual car sales. )

The good news is that the people of some countries are also figuring it out. The Tesla Model 3 is the #1 top selling automobile in Norway this year, and seemingly also in the Netherlands. Not a single other car (or even crossover or SUV) is outselling the Model 3 in these countries, and all signs indicate that the Model 3 will hold onto the leadership established here in the summer, through December.

One day, the Model 3 should be in a similar position in the United States. How long will it take?

If you’d like to buy a Tesla and get 2,000 miles (3,000 km) of free Supercharging, feel free to use my referral code by October 1: After October 1, it’s presumed that you will get 1,000 miles (1,500 km) of free Supercharging by using that referral code (or someone else’s).

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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