2016 continues being a bad year for he Minicar segment, with a further drop in sales in the second quarter of 10 percent relative to Q2 2015, bringing the total fall for the year to 18 percent; only the Premium Mid-sized segment shrank more in 2016 so far. What’s more, this was despite the new Chevy Spark and facelifted Mitsubishi Mirage hitting the market this quarter. It seems that this segment is destined to shrink until gas prices rise meaningfully, as American customers buy cars from this sector only because of the value proposition they represent, rather than because they inherently value the advantage of their small size.
Car sales statistics for the minicar segment in the US, updated every quarter.
What a difference a year makes! 2015 started off very well for the Minicar segment, with a 19% growth recorded in Q1, but 2016 could not be more different: sales were 28% lower in Q1 2016 than a year prior, the biggest fall from among all segments! The reason for this is very clear: continuing low gas prices encourages people to buy larger, less fuel-efficient cars. With only one new car (Chevy Spark) and one facelifted car (Mitsubishi Mirage) hitting the market this year, it’s hard to see how things could get better anytime soon for the struggling segment.
2015 started off very well for the Minicar segment, with a 19% growth recorded in Q1, but as the year went on got progressively worse and worse, culminating in the segment shrinking by 30% in Q4. The main reason for this is the falling price of gas that encourages people to buy larger, less fuel-efficient cars – a theme that we’ll see in many other segments as well. This trend is so strong in the US market right now that it drags down even the newest, most attractive cars (Mini Cooper), or ones that started the year as star performers (Mitsubishi Mirage).
The Minicar segment could not maintain its growth from the first half of the year, and shrank by 9% in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014. This means that so far this year the segment has only grown by 3%, behind the overall sales growth of 5% , and may yet end up shrinking overall by the time 2015 is over. While at least some of this reversal is due to the continuing low gas prices which promote purchases of large cars, one has the feeling that it is also due to the cars available being a rather uninspiring and aging bunch…
The Minicar segment is one of the smallest ones in the US, both in terms of sales and the number of models offered (only five in the US, compared to 30 in Europe!). This reflects the fact that, for the vast majority of users in the US, cars as small as this are simply too small; rather, they are bought by a very narrow group of city-dwelling consumers. In addition, due to fringe positioning the Minicar segment in the US ranges from the cheapest new car on sale (the Mitsubishi Mirage) all the way to the premium MINI.
The segment grew by 9% compared to the first half of 2014, though in this case it’s almost weird to talk about averages. Rather, you observe two types of performances – the cars that gained a lot of sales because they’re new, and cars that lost sales because they’re aging. In the former group is the new MINI, which regained its position as market leader on the back of sales that rose by 62%, no doubt helped by the arrival of the ungainly but popular 5-door model. Its main rival, Fiat 500, saw its sales fall 15% year-on-year and stayed in #3, making the incoming facelift all the more important.