In its third month of the year the US car market is still yet to register a month of growth, with March sales falling by 3.1% relative to the same month in 2018. Year to date, in 2019, sales are now 3.0% down on 2018, suggesting that this year may be the first downturn in the market in many years.
Note from the author: work commitments had taken me away from CSS for the past few months, and in the effort to make up for lost time I will try to quickly catch up on the monthly US summaries, before progressing to other articles. Apologies for the absence! Also, have to say: good to be back!
After seeing sales drop by 1.0% in January, the market suffered an even worse February, with sales down 2.9%.
EV and PHEV sales in Europe continue to break records in 2019 with a 44% increase to nearly 126.000 sales of plug-in vehicles, of which close to 83.000 full electric cars and almost 43.000 plug-in hybrid cars. Sales of the former surged almost doubled at +94% while PHEV sales were virtually stable at -3%. If in 2018 battery electric cars outsold PHEVs for the first time, in the first quarter of 2019 almost twice as many EVs were delivered than plug-in hybrids. Plug-in vehicles accounted for 3,1% of the European car market, up from 2% in the first quarter of 2018 and 2,2% in the full year 2018.
The premium large SUV segment in Europe returns to growth in the first quarter of 2019, helped by the arrival of five new nameplates. Nearly 70.000 large luxury SUVs were delivered in Q1, and the BMW X5 is still the best seller of them all. A new generation X5 has picked up where the previous one finished its life cycle: on top of the ranking. A 6% increase in deliveries means the BMW has grown its share of the segment to 13,4%. In second place we find the Range Rover Sport, which hasn’t been this high in the ranking since 2015. It’s helped by the Plug-in Hybrid version which has a take rate of 24% and is therefore responsible for more than the 12% growth of the nameplate. That allows the RR Sport to move past the Volvo XC90, which is down 10% despite selling more PHEVs than Range Rover, with a take rate of 27,4% for the electrified Swede. This is the only luxury segment where the Germans don’t dominate the top of the charts, but just due to their large number of entrants (12 out of 24 nameplates are German), they still control more than half of its sales with a 56,3% share of the segment. BMW is the leader with 15,7% share with its three models, followed by Audi with 14,2% with its two models, and Mercedes-Benz is struggling at just 10,6% for its four models. This is due to the model changeover of its best seller GLE, which sees a 58% drop in deliveries just as the new generation is arriving in showrooms. The GLE is therefore down to #8 and is just slightly ahead of the G-Class, which even outsold it in February, for the very first time ever.
The midsized premium SUV segment in Europe continues its steady growth in the first quarter of 2019 with a 5% increase to nearly 143.000 sales. In the top-10, only three nameplates improve their sales, helped by model updates. The segment leader Mercedes-Benz GLC loses ground with an 11% loss, which means it loses 2,8 percentage points of share and is now fewer than 1.500 sales ahead of both the #2 and the #3. The BMW X3 storms to second place with sales more than doubling thanks to the new generation. The X3 is looking to claim the top spot of the segment for the first time since 2013. Former leader Volvo XC60 is now down to 3rd place with sales stable on last year. It’s still in the running to reclaim the segment crown it held from 2014 till 2016, but the momentum is now with the X3. The XC60 has a take rate of 22% for the plug-in hybrid version, but the German brands are launching their full electric crossovers this year, with the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the BMW iX3 and the slightly larger Audi e-Tron, to which Volvo does not yet have an answer. The Audi Q5 is down to 4th place at a distance to the top-3 as it saw its sales decline by 18% in the first quarter. [Read more…]
The limousine segment in Europe started a decline in 2018 and this trend continued in the first quarter of 2019, with sales down 18% to nearly 10.500 sales. We have one newcomer and just two nameplates that improve their sales year-over-year, with the rest all in red, of which all but one with double digits. The dominant segment leader Mercedes-Benz S-Class not only maintains its top position, but also stabilizes its market share of over 31% with sales down 19%, only slightly more than the segment as a whole. It sells over 1.000 cars more than its nearest rival BMW 7-series which hasn’t yet borne the fruits of its latest facelift, which should help it reduce the Q1 decline of 23% in the following quarters. Keep in mind that S-Class sales include the Coupe and Convertible versions, which BMW splits out under the name 8-Series and most other brands don’t offer in this segment. The launch of the BMW 8-series helps the brand to outsell Mercedes-Benz in this class for the first time since 2012. Third place is for the Audi A8, down just 4% and therefore the best performer in the top-8, helped by its new generation. [Read more…]
The premium large car segment in Europe has fallen into a double digit decline in the first quarter of 2019, with sales down 13% to just over 100.000 units. Only four of the 14 models in the class sell more than they did in the same period of 2018, and only one in the top-4. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class holds its top position with sales down 11% which means it increases its share of the segment to 28,9%. Despite a take rate of 15,5% for the plug-in hybrid version, its nearest rival BMW 5-series loses 19% and is just 120 sales ahead of the #3 Audi A6. The latter has just been renewed and delivers 12% more vehicles than in Q1 of last year. The A6 adds over 5 percentage points of share of the segment, which means these three models now account for 76% of all sales in this class. At brand level, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi control 83,4%, up from 77,9% last year. The A6 clearly has a shot at the #2 spot for this year, but is already too far behind the E-Class to reclaim the segment title it last held in 2015. There’s only one caveat to that remark: the E-Class is also available in Coupe and Convertible versions, and sales of those are not split out. Unfortunately we can’t directly compare sales figures of only the sedan and station wagon versions, but the E-Class isn’t as dominant as it seems from these numbers. The Volvo S90/V90 takes a hard hit because of cannibalization from the new V60, which looks very similar to the V90 but is quite a bit more affordable. Sales of the Swedish models are down by 39%, accounting for half of the total segment’s decline so far in 2019 and there’s now a significant gap to the top-3.
Sales of midsized luxury cars in Europe continue their downward trend in the first quarter of 2019, with deliveries down 3% to just over 160.000 units. And if it hadn’t been for the thunderous arrival of the Tesla Model 3, the segment would have been down by 14%. In March alone, Tesla delivered more Model 3’s than any midsized namplate except for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and that also includes all mainstream midsized models like the VW Passat. However, this is not reflective of the long-term potential of the Model 3, as these figures reflect deliveries of cars ordered over the past few years. Tesla registrations will continue to fluctuate greatly over the course of the year as customer deliveries are dependent on the arrival of the ships that deliver the cars to Europe. The American EV brand may make some headlines as it may seem to outperform its European rivals, and the huge amount of pre-ordered vehicles is by all means an impressive feat, but in our analysis of the registration figures, we’ll always try to compare apples to apples. For the first quarter, the C-Class is still in command despite a 6% drop in sales, as its closest rival Audi A4 loses almost a quarter of its volume, as well as 4,6 percentage points of share, as some gasoline models still haven’t been available due to the WLTP standards introduced last September. Taht allows the BMW 3-series to close the gap to the #2 spot, despite seeing its sales slide 8% as the new generation is just arriving in showrooms. With Audi’s availability issues apparently solved (sales were down “just” 7,5% in March), an upcoming facelift for the A4 and BMW’s new 3-Series picking up steam, the battle on the podium will be intense for the rest of the year, especially with the wild card Model 3 that could crash the party as well.