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Business

October 14, 2012

Automakers poised to do battle for midsize-sedan market

FORT WORTH, Texas — Six big automakers are poised to slug it out over the next year or two in what is shaping up to be a heated competition for a prime slice of the American car market — the midsize family sedan.

And these are not just your ordinary family sedans.

In a rare confluence of timing and investment, by year’s end dealers for five of the six major brands should be well-stocked with new models featuring attractive designs and interior trims, enhanced safety features and innovative technology.

Toyota led the way in late 2011 with a new version of its venerable Camry, long the top-selling sedan in this country. Coming to market now and in coming months are new models of the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.

“These are all-new cars. They bring a lot to the table,” Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo said.

Another analyst, Aaron Bragman of IHS Automotive, said: “We’re seeing a lot of competition in this segment. We’re seeing a lot of new technology, especially from the American manufacturers. It’s no longer a three-way race between the Japanese manufacturers.”

Also in the race will be the still-fresh Hyundai Sonata, introduced as a 2011 model. The Sonata won critics’ reviews for styling while providing lots of interior features at a modest price.

In all, these six models accounted for nearly 1.5 million sales in 2011, taking the lion’s share of the midsize car segment, which accounts 15 percent of the U.S. auto market. Other models such as the Volkswagen Passat — also redesigned for 2012 — and Mazda 6 trail far behind the leaders.

The new sedans almost universally have more striking exterior designs, something that should leap out at many consumers. Add pleasing interior features, high-definition sound systems, touch-screen and voice-controlled entertainment and navigation systems, and the packages will evoke luxury of more expensive brands.

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