Sales in the limousine segment in Europe were still sizzling hot in 2014, thanks to a few all-new or redesigned models, and that model offence will continue this year and next as the traditional leader Mercedes-Benz S-Class gets some increased competition from its closest rivals.
In 2014, the S-Class more than doubled its sales, and as a result, it has accounted for over 95% of the overall segment’s growth, meaning the other 12 models have seen their sales increase with less than 400 sales combined, or less than 2%. As a result, the Mercedes-Benz takes almost 43% share of the segment. But that’s not even a record, as its predecessor from two generations ago (the W220) grabbed almost 50% segment share in 2001 with over 30.000 sales vs. “only” 17.638 in 2014.
The Audi A8 manages to bounce up from 4th to 2nd place thanks to sales up 20% after receiving a facelift at the end of 2013. As the Porsche Panamera remains stable, both in sales and in third position, the BMW 7-series drops off the podium with sales down 11%, making 2014 the first year ever that the 7 is not on the limousine segment podium, with record low sales. Even the much maligned “Bangle-butt” E65 generation has never sold fewer than 8.000 units a year in Europe.
However, an all-new 7-series will arrive in showrooms at the end of the year, including hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, based on technology BMW has developed with the i3 and i8 models. The plug-in version will compete with the Panamera e-Hybrid and the S500 plug-in.
Biggest loser in the top-8 is the Jaguar XJ, as a facelift is waiting just around the corner to reach showrooms in the second quarter of this year. It was outsold by the Volkswagen Phaeton in the fourth quarter, a model that sold just one unit less than in 2013, at 1.792 sales, while every other human being in Europe had already forgotten about the model or thought that it had gone out of production at least three years ago. And now rumors have surfaced about Volkswagen attempting another crack at the segment with a second generation Phaeton. The first generation was pulled from the North-American market after just a few years of sales, and in Europe, the model has sold an average of less than 3.000 units a year, which leads me to ask myself: “Do they really have too much cash at VW, or are they simply selling a ton of them in China?”
The Maserati Quattroporte almost doubles in sales, but leaves plenty of room to grow, as its first generation topped out at almost double of current sales pace in 2007, even though the new generation is available with diesel engines. I guess there’s some cannibalization from the smaller Ghibli, which wasn’t around 8 years ago.
Equally impressive gains by the Bentley Flying Spur, doubling its 2013 sales, but also still just over half of its predecessor in 2006, at 1.129 sales. Who said limousine sales are unhurt by the financial crisis? Maybe not worldwide, but certainly in Europe, as the segment as a whole has lost half of its volume between 2006 and 2013 before rebounding in 2014 and coming years.
With the new 7-series and facelifted XJ, and the addition of a ultra-luxury, stretched version of the S-Class, marking the return of the Maybach name in 2015, and an all-new A8 in 2016, the limousine segment has plenty of room to grow, even though it may not return to those 2006 levels.
Bentley Flying Spur
Rolls Royce Ghost
Aston Martin Rapide
Rolls Royce Phantom
Click on any model to see its annual sales from 1997-2013 and monthly sales in 2012, 2013 and 2014, or use the dropdown menu in the top right of this site. Sources: Manufacturers, ANDC, JATO Dynamics.
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