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Halfway Point: Best-Selling Cars of 2016

With the June numbers now tallied, the auto industry is halfway through the 2016 selling season and remains slightly ahead of last year’s record pace: According to The Wall Street Journal’s Market Data Center, and as compared to the same period last year, vehicle deliveries were up 1.5 percent in the first six months of 2016 and total sales climbed to 8,644,920 units.

That’s the good news, but it’s worth noting that in June the average daily selling rate decreased by about 1.4 percent (even though the absolute number of deliveries increased by 2.5 percent to more than 1.5 million units for the month). The difference is that dealers were open for 26 days in June of 2016 but, because of the way the calendar fell, only for 25 days in 2015.

As for which vehicles are setting the pace, here’s a look at the sales leaderboard for the first six months of 2016, based mostly on manufacturer data.

1. Ford F-150

The Ford F-Series, including both F-150 and SuperDuty trucks, topped the sales charts with 395,244 deliveries during the first half of 2016, which is really no surprise. The F-Series has been the best-selling pickup in this country for 39 straight years and the best-selling vehicle of any kind for 34. But what’s even better for the Blue Oval is that momentum for the aluminum-intensive F-Series is really starting to build. Consider this: Although sales were up by a healthy 10.7 percent through the end of June, volume in that month spiked by 28.6 percent. And at 70,937 units, the F-Series had its highest June sales in a decade.

2. Chevrolet Silverado

On the other hand, the perennial second-place finisher to the Ford F-Series, the Chevrolet Silverado, closed out the first half of the year with two months of falling volume. That then pushed the Silverado’s six-month sales performance into the red, with 273,652 deliveries that reflected a .8 percent decline versus 2015. Yet customers who buy the Silverado seem to like it. In fact, drivers ranked the Silverado as the No. 1 full-size pickup in the recent 2016 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, and the only other truck in the segment with an above-average score was the GMC Sierra – the Silverado’s corporate cousin.

3. Ram Pickup

The Ram pickup makes it three spots in a row for full-size trucks, and it also brings more evidence of how industry demand is shifting away from cars. The Ram lineup was in fourth place for sales at this point last year, but it shrugged off the increased Ford competition to lift volume by nearly 9 percent so far in 2016, on the strength of 231,405 sales. The vehicle the Ram passed on the best-seller list? The Toyota Camry midsize sedan. Ram momentum is on a roll as well, backed by a 14.4 percent sales advance in June, when the truck rang up 38,126 sales that were its highest mark for the month since 2004.

4. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry has sort of become the F-Series of cars, leading the country in sales on that side of the ledger for 14 years in a row. It may be hard-pressed to keep that title this year, however. Camry deliveries topped out at 199,760 units for the first two quarters of the year, and that was down 7.4 percent from the same point in 2015. Additionally, while Camry sales were dropping an unlucky 13 percent last month, volume for the No. 2 car—revealed next—was surging by 10.7 percent. At this stage, year-to-date sales between the two are less than 10,000 units apart, and there are still six months of deliveries to come.

5. Honda Civic

Another example of changing customer tastes in the first half of 2016 can be found in the compact segment, where just three entries posted positive sales results during that time: the Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra and Honda Civic. But the recently redesigned Civic stands out with more deliveries than the other pair combined. Indeed, the Honda compact saw volume climb by 19.9 percent after turning the first six pages of the 2016 calendar, reaching 189,840 units. Nor is that growth likely to slow much in the second half of the year, since a hatchback model is going to rejoin the coupe and sedan in the lineup for the first time in 10 years.

6. Toyota Corolla

Meanwhile, the Honda Civic’s arch-rival in the compact segment – the Toyota Corolla – eked out a 1 percent sales gain for June, and that was the car’s best performance since February. Which helps explain why Corolla deliveries during the first half of 2016 had slipped by 4.2 percent from last year’s levels. The outlook for the Corolla is a bit better, as Toyota will follow Honda’s lead by adding a hatchback to its compact-car family for the next model year, converting the new-for-2016 Scion iM into the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM. For the Scion brand, the iM has been averaging about 1,500 sales per month this year and closed out the first half with 9,081 deliveries.

7.Nissan Altima

Fresh from setting an all-time June record for sales, the midsize Nissan Altima is on track to break its all-time annual sales record this year as well. The bottom line for the car through the end of last month: 172,695 sales that represented a .4 percent bump in volume as compared to the first half of 2015. That said, despite having the new milestone on the horizon and enjoying a nice midcycle upgrade for 2016, the Altima slid from sixth position on last year’s midyear sales chart to seventh in this year’s rankings, which is a further consequence of the uptick in consumer demand for trucks and crossovers.

8. Honda Accord

Honda claims the Accord has been the best-selling car in the United States since its debut here in 1976, and that for the last three years, it’s been No. 1 on a retail basis. Well, its popularity across the first half-year of 2016 shows it’s still going strong: Sales rose 8.7 percent for that period, bolstered by 169,354 deliveries, while just two other midsize sedans were able to grow volume faster in that time. Of course, due to the even quicker sales growth of crossovers, the Accord was nudged out of the top 10 list for June itself and finished that month in 11th place.

9. Toyota RAV4

Locked into an increasingly tight battle for crossover supremacy with the vehicle listed below, the Toyota RAV4 led the segment in sales at the midway point of the year, even as it was outsold by three rivals in June. You can take that as a further sign of high crossover demand, because despite that outcome, the RAV4 still enjoyed a double-digit advance in volume last month, and it’s still ahead of its pace from the first half of 2015. That’s thanks to a 15.5 percent improvement in deliveries and 165,900 sales. A possible difference: the first-ever RAV4 Hybrid. Per the team at HybridCars.com, the most fuel-efficient compact crossover on the road today added 3,751 units to the RAV4’s sales total in June.

10. Honda CR-V

Finally, the Honda CR-V was up to its old tricks again last month. It had been the best-selling crossover in the country for four years running when this year kicked off, but it hadn’t led a single month of 2016 until June, when it clocked in with 29,615 sales. Not only was that a 4.5 percent spike in volume over the same month in 2015, it also was enough for a brand-new June record for the vehicle. Overall, the CR-V’s sales had dipped by 2.4 percent six months into the 2016 calendar year, while customers took home 159,075 units. Blame that on tough competition from the likes of the RAV4, as well the Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue that scored significant sales gains in June alone.

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