The concept of a car “segment” is a curious thing. Mostly customers don’t know or don’t care in which segment their car competes. And in these crossover- and niche-obsessed times I get the feeling that predefined segments are becoming less and less relevant. After all, is the Dacia Sandero a competitor to the similarly-priced Suzuki Celerio, or rather the similarly-sized Opel Corsa? What about the BMW 5GT? Does it compete with the Mercedes-Benz E-class, R-class, or maybe old-fashioned minivans? Ultimately, does the notion of a segment even matter anymore beyond comparison tests and sales statistics?
Yes, they do, but not necessarily as a direct source of information to the buying customer. Rather, I believe they capture the idea that, when buying cars, consumers will usually decide on which car size they want (usually by anchoring their search on the segment leader e.g. the VW Golf) and then cross-shop similar cars. And cars that don’t neatly fit into these “search sets” are often ignored, especially if they are too different from the market leader in their segment.