Sales in the premium full-size SUV segment fell by 7.0% to 34,507 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall sales in 2017 rose by 2.5% to 126,559. The segment remains slightly ahead of the premium compact SUV segment, but with the latter growing at double-digit rates it seems likely it will become the smallest among the premium SUV sectors [Read more…]
Slowdown in the sector almost pushes it into the clutches of the Premium Compact SUV segment
Sales of Premium Full-Size SUVs were down 1% in the third quarter of 2017, a slight slowdown relative to the 3% growth in the second quarter, and a considerable slowdown relative to the 19% growth recorded in the first quarter. With 92,052 sales since the beginning of the year, the segment remains slightly ahead of the Premium Compact SUV segment, but with the latter growing at double-digit rates it seems likely it will become the smallest among the Premium SUV sectors in 2018, unless the new Lincoln Navigator and upcoming Cadillac Escalade can somehow bring back the era when bling dinosaurs ruled the earth.
Note: after lumping really models as disparate as the Lincoln MKX and Bentley Bentayga under the Premium Large SUV banner for a long time, we have decided to split the segment into two: Premium Large SUV and Premium Full-size SUV. The difference between the two will hopefully be self-evident, but we’re aiming for the latter segment to capture models that are ahead of the more homogenous Premium Large SUV pack either through their size (Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lexus LX), price (Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz G-Class), or both (Bentley Bentayga). Let us know what you think of this new split.
Stable sales for large luxury crossovers, slight growth for full-sized luxury crossovers.
Sales of Premium Large SUVs appear to have peaked, as first half 2017 figures are up just 1% over the same period last year, for a total of 296,538 sales. So far this year, the trend in the premium segment seems to be: the bigger the truck, the slower the sales growth. However, subdivided in Large and Full-sized SUVs, the former subsegment is down by 1% to 236,206 sales, while the really big trucks still improve by 11% to 60,332 sales. The segment has had a boost of fresh and updated models in recent years, but will take a breather in coming months. We’ve just had the launch of the new generation Land Rover Discovery to replace the LR4, but we’ll have to wait until next year for the arrival of the Lexus RX 7-seater, new generation BMW X5 and the long-awaited new Mercedes-Benz G-Class. In the full-sized subsegment, there will be more news this year, with the new generations of the Infiniti QX80 and the Lincoln Navigator arriving in showrooms in the second half, as well as an updated Cadillac Escalade.
Sales growth in the Premium Large SUV segment slowed in the first quarter of 2017, with a gain of 4.9% to 142,801 sales. Subdivided in Large and Full-sized SUVs, we can conclude that almost all of the growth comes from the latter. While large SUVs gained 1.5% to 112,501 sales, the largest premium SUVs on the road increased their sales by 19.5% to 30,300 units. This is a similar trend as with mainstream crossovers and SUVs, where also the smallest (subcompact crossovers) and the largest (full-sized SUVs) were the fastest growing “truck” segments. This segment has seen quite a few new entrants and model updates in 2016, but won’t sit still this year either, so expect the winning streak to be extended to 8 years of consecutive growth. Combined, out of 24 players in this segment, only 9 lose volume, of which just 3 with double digits, compared to 7 double digit gainers.
The annual New York Auto Show is one of the most popular auto shows in the world, it’s traditionally held at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and this year it runs from Friday April 14 through Sunday April 23. That means it’s the last of the major auto shows in North America, after LA in November, Detroit in January and Chicago in February. As a result, the number of real new product launches and concept cars is relatively limited, especially compared to the most important of them all: Geneva. Still, we’ve had our pick of winners and losers of the show, and as usual we just can’t seem to agree on most of them. Let us know your view in the poll or in the comments below.
Acura TLX (facelift)
See the new TLX in isolation and you may think to yourself “wow, this is a pretty good-looking car”, but wish the grille wasn’t quite as big and brash as it is. Well, then, you’re in luck – there is a version of this car without this ugly new grille, and it’s called the pre-facelift TLX. Now, don’t get me wrong, the TLX is still pretty good looking, it’s just that with this facelift Acura managed to either botch the changes the TLX needed (the new grille is not an improvement, and does not go far enough to give this car “personality”) and not change things at all (the interior still looks no better than on the mass-market Accord). Acura is desperately looking for a car that will change the fortunes of its mainstream offerings, and this is not it, sadly.
What a difference a grille makes! Acura pulls trick from the Lexus playbook, using the motto: it doesn’t have to be stylish, as long as it’s brash. As opposed to Kriss, I think it’s an improvement compared to the pre-facelift version. The TLX goes from utter wallflower with its beak-nose to one of the most aggressive designs in the segment with its enormously wide grille. I don’t find it particularly sophisticated, or even attractive for that matter (I’d still prefer a C-Class, Q50 or even the aging 3-Series over it), but I just have to admire Acura for finally getting the point that just another vanilla sedan just isn’t going to cut it in this competitive segment anymore. Besides the sheer size of the grille, and the graphics inside it, there’s one more issue I have with the front end of the updated TLX: the lower part seems visually wider than the rest, which gives it a bit of a “heavy” presence, as if it has a double chin. The rear end has been cleaned up nicely, though.
Sales in the Premium Large SUV segment rose by 8.7 percent in 2016 to 616,093, allowing the segment to retain a healthy margin ahead of the Premium Mid-sized SUV segment. The growth figure becomes an even-more-impressive 10.0 percent with the inclusion of the Tesla Model X, which is listed in the Alternative Power segment – impressive in this era of downsizing. The popularity of this segment is borne out in the sheer number of models offered by manufacturers: with a total of 25 models following the introduction of Maserati Levante and Bentley Bentayga, this segment is now one of the most populous. 2017 will see the introduction of the newest versions of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Porsche Cayenne, as well as the new Land Rover Discovery which should reintroduce the Discovery name in the US.
Sales in the Premium Large SUV segment rose by 11 percent in the third quarter of 2016, one percent faster than in the first two quarters of 2016. When you include Tesla Model X, which technically belongs in the Alternative Power segment, that rate of growth rises to 13 percent YTD – impressive in this era of downsizing. Moreover, the popularity of the segment is borne out in the sheer number of models offered by manufacturers: with a total of 24 models following the introduction of Maserati Levante and Bentley Bentayga, this segment is now one of the most populous.
Sales of Premium Large SUVs in the US rose by 10 percent in the second quarter of 2016, exactly the same rate of growth as in the first quarter. What is impressive is that for all the trend in downsizing, this is exactly the same rate of growth as that recorded by the Premium Mid-sized SUV segment, and only a bit slower than the Premium Compact SUV segment.
Sales of Premium Large SUVs in the US rose by 12% in Q1 2016 to 139,709 vehicles – a slower rate of growth than in both smaller Premium SUV segments, but still considerably faster than the average 3% growth rate experienced by the industry as a whole. Similarly to the Premium Mid-sized SUV segment, most of the high growth happened among models that ranked in the middle of the standings, while some of the highest-selling models experienced a fall in volume.
Highlights in Q1 2016:
- The new Lexus RX, which hit the market in 2016, has not so far resulted in a large growth in sales for the model (2% sales growth was below segment average), but so far it retains the segment lead
- The facelifted Mercedes-Benz GLE did much better – its sales grew by 18%, party on the back of the newly-introduced GLE Coupe, which allowed the German model to claim second spot in the segment by vaulting Acura MDX, whose sales fell by 17% in anticipation of the facelifted model hitting the market next quarter, and its arch-rival BMW X5, whose sales fell by 15%
- The top 10 sees the entry of new models which experienced great growth compared to Q1 2015: Volvo XC90 (sales up almost 7,000%, up to sixth spot), Lincoln MKX (sales up 81%, up to seventh spot) and Audi Q7 (sales up over 100%, up to eight spots). In fact, with sales of 6,993, Q1 2016 marks the highest quarterly result for the large Audi, showing once again that good looks are not necessary to succeed in this segment
- Interestingly, despite continuing low gas prices, most of the largest models in the segment recorded a fall in sales: Range Rover Sport (down 11%), Lexus GX (down 5%), Mercedes-Benz GL (down 39%, presumably in anticipation of the incoming GLS facelifted model), as well as Range Rover (down 1%) and Infiniti QX80 (down 5%). The only exception to this was the Lexus LX, whose sales were up 76% on the back of a recent facelift
- The sportiest models in the segment, Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6, did well for themselves with a 14% and 16% growth in sales, respectively
- Land Rover Discover continues to increase in popularity despite the new model being just around the corner, with sales up 68%
- Tesla Model X continues to rise in the ranks, and is now up to 19th spot with sales of 2,425
The 2016 New York Auto Show has started, and while it’s not as important as the show in Detroit, nor as West-Coast flashy as the show in LA, a handful of automakers still picked it to reveal their new or updated models, or concepts of upcoming models. We’ve picked the 7 most significant ones and compared notes. Let us know what you think of them in the comments below.
Acura MDX facelift
I’m glad they finally ditched the chrome shield in the grille, but the downside is that the MDX has become even more anonymous than it was before. Acura’s design is apparently going the complete opposite of that of Lexus, who are getting more extreme with every launch. That probably makes the MDX the perfect minivan-that’s-not-a-minivan, so they’ll probably continue to sell a ton of them. They also have a hybrid now, with the same system as the NSX. The MDX surely has a lot of good things going for it, otherwise it wouldn’t be the #2 of its segment. And yes, the Q7 is shockingly awful and Mercedes hasn’t gotten the styling quite right in any of the ML/GLE generations, but I think the X5 beats the MDX in styling, even if for the simple fact that it actually gets noticed.
It’s funny, you say “Miss”, but I read a lot of good things: “ditched the chrome shield grille”, “perfect minivan-that’s-not-a-minivan”, “hybrid with the same system as the NSX”. I had a soft spot for the MDX Mk II, and while the new model is not quite as muscular-looking as that, I think the facelift makes it into a rather handsome car, better-looking than any of the German trio (Q7, X5 and ML). In my mind Acura would do best to emulate the inoffensive Audis of late 1990s/early 2000s, and this fits the bill perfectly.