Sales in the premium large segment fell by 11% compared to 2014, a pretty bad, but maybe not unexpected performance given that most cars in this segment are either getting long in the tooth, or are on the verge of being replaced with new models. With the new Mercedes-Benz E class, Volvo S90 and Jaguar XF about to go on sale in the first months of 2016 it is reasonable to expect the segment’s fortunes to pick up soon.
But in 2015 it was the Lexus ES that took home the segment honors, selling almost 70,000 units, compared to fewer than 50,000 units for the second-placed model, the Mercedes-Benz E class. The FWD Lexus is a favorite among the senior crowd that values space and comfort above sportiness or catchy styling, and has topped the segment in seven of the past ten years. While the ES’s sales were 4% lower in 2015 than the year prior, it still managed to open a huge gap to the E class, whose sales nose-dived 25% in anticipation of the arrival of the new model. Similarly, sales of the third-placed BMW 5-series also fell sharply by 16%, though consumers will have to wait until late in 2016 until the next generation model arrives.
In fourth is one of the few models to register a growth in sales over the course of the past year, the Hyundai Genesis. The model, soon to be renamed the G80 under Hyundai’s newly-created Genesis luxury brand, has been doing very well indeed in the marketplace. In 2015 it advanced one spot to fourth at the expense of the Cadillac CTS, and the contrast between the two could not be sharper. While the former is a solid performer from an upstart brand, the latter is quickly turning into a fallen star from a “old luxury” brand. Although the new-for-2014 CTS is arguably the best large premium sedan that Cadillac has ever made, somehow it cannot connect with the buyers, partly due to its awkward styling, but mostly due to a price that now matches its German rivals. And so the CTS sold fewer than 20,000 units in 2015, 37% less than in 2014, and a little over a third of what it managed a decade ago. It placed a eighth in the segment, falling below, other than the Hyundai, the Lexus GS (sales up 5%, up to fifth), its FWD XTS sister model (sales down 5%, sixth spot) and Audi A6 (sales down 5%, seventh spot).
In ninth we find the Infiniti Q70, which gained an astonishing 68% in sales over the course of the past year. Part of the reason is probably the facelift, which saw Infiniti lower prices to make the model more affordable, but another contributing factor is that Infiniti is now sold in the US in the Q70L long-wheelbase version, originally designed for the Chinese market. It will be interesting whether other carmakers follow Infiniti into the market, especially that many already have such models ready and waiting.
While Mercedes-Benz is the top dog when it comes to the sensible saloons, it comes as a surprise to find that it comes bottom of the heap when it comes to the sporty, 4-door “coupe” models. The CLS may have (re)invented the niche, but in 2015 it came a lowly fourteenth, below the BMW 6-series (10th) and Audi A7 (11th). This is a particularly impressive performance for the A7, which unlike the 6-series, is not offered as a 2-door coupe or cabriolet.
The rest of the segment is made up either by models that are about to be replaced, such as the Volvo S90 and Jaguar XF, or models which may never see a replacement, such as the Acura RLX. The latter is doing particularly badly for a model that’s not even three years old yet, losing more than a third of sales over the course of the past year. The model’s predecessor, the RL, may never have been a huge success for Acura, but its last generation peaked at 17,500 sales in 2005, almost eight times what its uber-conservative successor managed in 2015. May this be the end of ambitions for the Japanese brand in this segment?
Note: clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off