The Small Premium Sports segment accelerates its rate of decline as sales in the first quarter of 2017 are down by 11.6% to a mere 3,001 sales. In 2016, the smallest segment in the industry already shrank by 1.8%, despite a still very fresh line-up of contenders and three updated models: the facelifted Mercedes-Benz SLK, now renamed SLC, and the facelifted Porsche Boxster and Cayman, now renamed 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman. 2017 is expected to bring a new BMW Z5, co-developed with Toyota, which will launch its new Supra on the same platform, but I’m doubtful if that can turn the segment around, also because it’s unlikely to arrive in showrooms long before the end of the year.
Highlights in Q1 2017:
- The Mercedes-Benz SLC reclaims the segment lead it lost to the Porsche Cayman in 2016, even though the SLC gained only 1.8% on the volume of its predecessor SLK.
- That’s because the 718 Cayman lost more than a quarter of its volume after the name change, and so did its convertible version 718 Boxster (almost). I’m not sure what has caused this sudden big dip in sales for the two models, the only thing I can think of is that Americans find it hard to stomach a Porsche sports car with a four cylinder engine, especially since there’s no option with more cylinders available, like the SLC and Audi TT do have. Then again, the two Porsches still lead the segment by a large margin when combined.
- The TT, after being the biggest (and almost only) growing nameplate in the segment last year, consolidates its segment share in the first quarter with a small loss, helping it move up another spot in the ranking to take 2nd place.
- In its final few months (production ended June 2016), the BMW Z4 enjoys a second youth as dealers are clearing the last remaining stocks off their lots. A 24% gain in the first quarter does not make up for 6 consecutive years of declines, especially if you consider the model sold over 10,000 units annually until 10 years ago.
- The Alfa Romeo 4C continues to lose volume, even though it’s never been anything but a niche model, even in this niche segment.