The premium large car segment in Europe is in dire straits with a loss of 6% in 2016 but a more painful -13% in Q4. Only one model in the top-10 manages to improve its volume: the new leader Mercedes-Benz E-Class, helped by the new generation. The E-Class was up 17% for the year and an even more impressive 32% in Q4. To be fair, this includes sales of the coupe version, which Audi doesn’t offer in this class and BMW has split off from the 5-Series as the 6-Series. The Audi A6 and BMW 5-series are actually impressively stable considering their age compared to the fresh E-Class. The A6 was down just 2% (-10% in Q4) and its new generation isn’t expected until 2018, while the 5-Series lost 8% (-2% in Q4) while the new generation had already been revealed and has entered showrooms early 2017.
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Sales of premium midsized cars in Europe increased slightly faster than the overall market in 2016, at +7%. This is also significantly better than the growth of the mainstream midsized segment, which saw virtually stable sales. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class manages to hold on to the segment lead despite improving just 2% while a surging Audi A4 adds almost a third to its volume thanks to the new generation. However, keep in mind that the C-Class figures include sales of the Coupe and Convertible version as well, so in pure sedan and station wagon deliveries, the A4 is likely to be ahead. The BMW 3-series also has stable volume and is knocked down to the bottom spot of the podium, even though it surprisingly outsold the much fresher A4 in the last quarter. If we combine brand sales of the German Big 3, we see that BMW is the segment leader with 212.544 sales of its 3-Series and 4-Series, just ahead of Audi with its A4 and A5 at 206.341, while Mercedes-Benz is a distant third, as it misses a 4-door coupe version to compete with the 4-Series Gran Coupe and A5 Sportback.
In an overall market up 6,2%, the premium compact car segment in Europe grows 8% in 2016, to top 900.000 annual sales for the first time ever. Growth slowed down a bit in the last quarter, when the segment grew by just 2%. Segment leader Audi A3 sees its sales fall by 4%, but still comfortably leads the segment if we’d only look at nameplates. This is relevant to mention, because Audi only has one nameplate in this segment, under which it sells four different bodystyles: 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks, a sedan and a convertible. Its main rivals have at least 3 different nameplates each in this segment, and if we’d look at total brand volume, Mercedes-Benz would be ahead of BMW by the tiniest of margins (281.348 vs 281.249), both selling Audi by more than 90.000 sales. Then again, Audi also has a smaller model, as you’ll see below, and this A1 coincidentally sells enough units to put Audi back on top by just 5.000 sales (286.532 units).
Large SUVs are just a small part of the European market, making up just 0,36% of the industry, but at +16% in 2016, it grows faster than the overall market at +6,2%. Across the Atlantic, these vehicles make up 10,3% of the US market as Americans buy 33 times more of these SUVs than Europeans do. And every single model in the US midsized (yes, they have an even bigger segment above these) crossover segment top-14 (out of 17) outsells the entire European segment combined. If in the US 3 out of the top-4 models are from domestic brands, in Europe the South-Koreans have dominated this segment for years. Thanks to sales up 10%, the Hyundai Santa Fe reclaims the segment lead from its sibling Kia Sorento, down 7% despite being two years younger (2014 vs 2012). At the end of Q3 the Sorento was still on top with a very thin margin, but the Santa outsold it in Q4 for the second straight quarter to finish the year on top. However, Hyundai-Kia has lost 7,5 percentage points of its share of the segment compared to last year, and the culprit of this loss can be found in third place.
Sales of midsized crossovers are growing even faster than their smaller rivals, at +26,8% in Q4 and +22% in the full year 2016, compared to +16% for the small crossover segment and +6,2% for the overall market. And while the growth is fueled by newcomers and updated existing models, the segment leader and the model that started the popularity of this segment Nissan Qashqai maintains its leadership of the segment, even though its volume is stable on last year. However, its dominance of the segment will be challenged in 2017, as the new generation Volkswagen Tiguan already outsold its British-Japanese rival in Q4, by 2.600 sales and will fight for the segment lead for the first time ever. In third place we find another relative fresh model: the Hyundai Tucson, knocking down its sibling Kia Sportage off the podium for the first time since 2012.
After more than 1 million small crossovers and SUVs were sold in Europe in 2015, this remains one of the fastest growing segments with an increase of 16% to 1,4 million sales in 2016, more than half the volume of the subcompact hatchbacks, Europe largest segment and the models on which most of these crossovers are based. The growth is mostly fueled by recent model introductions, as proven by the fact that the entire top-4 loses share of the segment. Still, only two models in the top-10 lose volume in 2016, although that figure doubles to four in the last quarter. As expected, the Renault Captur holds on to the segment lead and becomes the first small crossover to sell over 200.000 units annually in Europe. More surprisingly, the Captur manages this performance without having been updated since its launch while its two closes rivals have been facelifted in 2016. Of these two, the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka sees stable sales and loses its second place to the Peugeot 2008, the fastest growing model in the top-4.
At just over 150.000 annual sales, the large MPV segment is the second smallest mainstream segment in Europe, but it’s also the fastest growing segment in 2016 at +32%, although that requires a sidenote that the segment was actually down by 4% in Q4. Only one of the remaining models loses volume for the year and that’s the former segment leader Volkswagen Sharan, which is clearly outsold by the Ford S-Max. The S-Max is the first large MPV to top 40.000 annual sales since 2011 when its previous generation hit that volume, as well as the Sharan which was brand new at that time. Close behind the Sharan in third place we find its Spanish clone Seat Alhambra with sales up 17% despite being the oldest of the remaining models by a large margin (together with the Sharan, of course).
The midsized MPV segment in Europe continues to shrink in 2016, with sales down 3% for the full year and down an even more painful 7% in Q4. In both periods, 7 models of the top-10 lost volume and in Q4 six of those did that with double digits. The top of the ranking is completely reshuffled from 2015 as the former numbers 1, 2 and 3 are now down to 2nd, 6th and 4th place. The Volkswagen Touran took the lead of the segment for the first time ever in Q3 and held on to it for the full year. This is the first time ever that a French car does not lead the midsized MPV segment, as the Citroën C4 Picasso loses 4% and the Renault Scenic is the biggest loser of the remaining models in the segment as its new generation is about to hit showrooms. As a result, we now find an MPV from a luxury brand on the podium for the first time ever: the BMW 2-Series Active and Gran Tourer.
Sales of small MPVs continue to nosedive, as 2016 segment volume is down 12% in the fourth quarter and down 14% for the full year, barely staying above 300.000 sales. That means the entire segment sells fewer units than the Renault Clio by itself. This also makes it by far the fastest shrinking segment in Europe for the second year running. Until 2014, more than 400.000 small MPVs were consistently sold every year. Unsurprisingly, all models share the pain, with not a single nameplate growing its volume in 2016, after only one model improved in 2015. The segment leader Fiat 500L shows the slowest rate of decline at -4% and improves its share of the segment to 27% and logically remains on top of the ranking, followed by the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva, which will be replaced in 2017 by the Crossland X. This will be a more crossover-like model, co-developed with PSA which will launch a new generation Citroën C3 Picasso on the same platform. The Ford B-Max is unlikely to be replaced when it hits the end of its life cycle, but holds on to the third spot is took from the Nissan Note in the beginning of this year.
The midsized sedan (and station wagon) segment is losing ground in Europe just as it is across the Atlantic. In Q4 of 2016 sales were down 10% to end the year barely in the black: up just 1% from 2015 to 625.185 sales. In the last quarter, 7 models in the top-10 lost volume and all did so with double digits. The Volkswagen Passat holds on to its dominant lead but loses 3,4 percentage points of share compared to 2015 while its sibling Skoda Superb surges 70% to take 2nd place, which means Volkswagen Group still grows its share of the segment to almost 47%. The traditional podium fighters Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo are kicked down to fight for 3rd and 4th place. The Insignia holds on to its podium spot for the year, but in Q4 the Mondeo sold 600 units more than its rival which will be replaced by a new generation in 2017. However, there’s a new challenger on the block: In December the Renault Talisman outsold both of them to claim the segment 3rd place. With the Insignia weakened due to the model change and the current Mondeo having never struck a chord with European buyers, the Talisman should have a shot at the podium in the first half of the year, although the Insignia will strike back when the new generation has launched, helped by its popularity in the UK market where the Renault is absent.