Growth has stalled in the premium compact car segment in Europe, as the segment is down 8% in Q2 of 2017, leading to a 5% loss in the first half of the year to 468.243 sales. The ranking is relatively stable, but some individual models still show significant volume decreases or increases. The dominant segment leader Audi A3 is down 15% in the second quarter and sold just 4.500 cars more than the #2 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The A-Class has enjoyed increasing interest from buyers, as it was one of the fastest growing models in the segment in 2016 and continues to gain share in 2017. It distances the BMW 1-series for which the facelift effect already appears to be wearing off. Sales were stable in Q2 reducing the first half gain to 8%. The next generation 1-Series will become more of a follower than an individualist, losing its rear wheel drive platform and the 6-cylinder engine option, as well as its somewhat controversial styling in favor of more vanilla styling and mechanics. Undoubtedly that will only help it increase sales further and to become a real challenger for the segment lead.
Segment down 22% in Q2, oldest 2 models perform best
The Premium Compact segment was the fastest declining segment in the US car market in the first quarter with sales down 27%, and the situation only gets worse with a 31% decline in Q2. That brings the first half figure to just 42.519 units, down 29% on the same period in 2016, which means it remains the fastest declining segment in the US so far this year. The main culprit for this demise is the premium compact crossover segment, which grows 27% in the first half of the year and becomes larger in volume than the regular sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons. Only two out of the 8 players in the segment show single-digit growth in Q2, while all others lose volume by at least 25%. These two happen to be the oldest of the bunch, as the Lexus CT200h has been on the market virtually unchanged since 2011 and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class was first launched that same year, even though sales in the US only started in 2014 as an electric-only model.
Even with the addition of the Infiniti QX30 the segment would be deep in the red. The Qx30 is marketed as a crossover, while in fact it’s really just a hatchback. Then again, following the same reasoning the Mercedes-Benz GLA should be classified as a hatchback as well, so we’re not sure how to classify it. We’re interested in what our readers have to say about this matter. In Europe, it is sold under two different names for both segment: the Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover, even though the only distinction between the two is the higher ground clearance of the latter. In the US, the Q30 is sold as the QX30 Sport, but Infiniti does not specify the take rate on that version, which would have made things a bit easier for us. For now, we’ll display it here for reference (it would instantly have become the segment leader), but keep it officially in the small SUV segment.
After outgrowing the overall market in 2016, the premium compact car segment in Europe appears to plateau in the first quarter of 2017 with sales down 1% in a market that continues to grow (+7,8%). The dominant segment leader is in trouble, as the Audi A3 loses 12% of its volume in the same period last year, while its nearest rivals continue to grow. The A3’s top spot is not yet in jeopardy, as the model still has an 11.000-unit advantage over its nearest rival, but its share of the segment has dipped to an all-time low of 20%. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class holds on to 2nd place by the skin of its teeth, as the BMW 1-series grows 16% to come within 300 sales of the A-Class. It will be interesting to see how the next generation 1-Series will perform when it gets front-wheel drive and loses the 6-cylinder option, making the current generation the last hatchback in its segment with those two features which are so important to enthusiasts but much less so for the average buyer. It will trade those qualities for more generic styling and more interior room.
We don’t usually devote much space to spy shots here at CarSalesBase, but in this instance I figured I’d make an exception given that it might lead to an interesting discussion. In particular, after years of speculations and anticipation, we finally have the first pictures of the third-generation 1-series hatchback, which unlike the first two generations will be primarily front-wheel drive.
Sales in the Premium Compact segment are the fastest declining segment in the US car market, as sales are down 27% in the first quarter of 2017, following a 19.5% decline in the second half of 2016. Five out of the segment’s eight models show double digit declines, of which the entire top-4. The only way to give this segment some positive news is that it would be down by “just” 2.8% if we considered the Infiniti QX30 to belong here as well. The Qx30 is marketed as a crossover, while in fact it’s really just a hatchback. Then again, following the same reasoning the Mercedes-Benz GLA should be classified as a hatchback as well, so we’re not sure how to classify it. We’re interested in what our readers have to say about this matter. In Europe, it is sold under two different names for both segment: the Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover, even though the only distinction between the two is the higher ground clearance of the latter. In the US, the Q30 is sold as the QX30 Sport, but Infiniti does not specify the take rate on that version, which would have made things a bit easier for us. For now, we’ll display it here for reference (it would instantly have become the segment leader), but keep it officially in the small SUV segment.
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).
Sales of premium compact cars grow slightly faster than the overall market in the first three quarters of 2016 at +9% vs. +7,5% and at more than double the growth rate of the mainstream compact car segment at +4%. Only four of the 14 models lose volume, among which the dominant leader Audi A3, down 4% but still almost as untouchable as its platform sibling VW Golf is in the mainstream segment. However, as I explain every quarter, Audi isn’t really as dominant as the ranking suggests. Mercedes-Benz is the real leader of the segment, with a 30,1% share (down from 30,6% in 2015) from its three models, followed by BMW with a 29,6% share (up from 29%) from its 4 models, while Audi only has a 20,7% share with its single model (down from 23,6%). Since the latter is unlikely to introduce a luxury MPV based on the Touran or Sportsvan, Audi will have to make do with just the 3- and 5-door hatchback, sedan and convertible versions of the A3.
The premium compact car segment grows faster than the overall market in the first half of 2016 at +10% vs. +8,8% and especially compared to the mainstream compact car segment at +6%. The German brands increase their dominance of the segment with over 83% share, and are competing fiercer than ever to attract younger, mostly first-time luxury buyers so they can try and keep them faithful to their brand when they move up the ladder. The model-ranking leader Audi A3 loses 3% of its volume as the competition heats up, but BMW becomes the biggest brand ahead of Mercedes-Benz. The 1-series hatchback, 2-series MPV, Coupe and Convertible and the i3 electric car add up to a combined 145.000 sales, compared to 144.000 sales for the A-Class hatchback, B-Class MPV and CLA sedan and station wagon. Despite having the A3 hatchback, sedan and convertible at the top of the ranking, Audi is a distant third with “just” 104.500 sales in the first half.
Sales of premium compact cars in Europe grew faster than the overall market in Q1 of 2016, at +10%. The long-standing leader of the segment, the Audi A3, stays firmly in control despite flat sales and therefore a diminished share. Bear in mind Audi sells all versions under the same name: three-door, five-door, sedan and convertible, while its main rivals use different names to differentiate the body types. At brand level, Mercedes-Benz remains the best seller of compact luxury cars with its four vehicles under three nameplates: the Mercedes-Benz A-Class adds 19% to its volume thanks to its facelift and moves past the also facelifted BMW 1-Series for the #2 spot. The 1-series has flat sales, but the Bavarian brand still is the fastest growing brand in the segment thanks to the 61% increase of the BMW 2-series Active/Gran Tourer, which beat the Mercedes-Benz fairly and squarely to become the best selling premium MPV.[Read more…]
A while back we asked you which premium compact model not currently available in the US would have the highest chance of succeeding. The Volvo V40 came out ahead with 32% of the votes – a clear, but not decisive win over its competitors. That many think it could do well does not come as a surprise – Volvo is currently on a bit of a roll, and while the V40 predates the current “hot” XC90 and S90/V90 models, it still represents much that customers like about the brand. It’s even available as the Cross Country, a jacked-up version of the kind that’s ever so popular in the US (think Volvo XC70, Subaru Outback). [Read more…]