Sales of premium large cars are down for the third straight year to the segment’s second lowest figure in at least two decades, above only 2009. In a segment where the top two players dominate with more than 50% share, the fortunes of these two have a large influence on the overall figure.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been the leader every year until 2005, when it was outsold by both the BMW 5-series and the Audi A6. Ten years later, 2014 is only the third year that the E-Class has finished back on top since, with the A6 taking first place from 2005 until 2007 and the 5-series winning in 2008 and 2011 until 2013.
Both the Mercedes-Benz and the BMW fall below 100.000 units and they won’t be likely to recover in 2015, as both models will be completely renewed in 2016. That may give the A6 an advantage this year, as it has just received a facelift and was surprisingly stable in 2014 after declining 16% in 2013.
Behind the traditional German Big 3, the Swedes finish in fourth place, like in the midsized premium segment. Thanks to its facelift, the Volvo V70 improves 15% on the lowest figure since its introduction, while the Jaguar XF remains in fifth place, improving its annual sales record for the second straight year. With a new generation waiting to hit the market in the third quarter, the XF should have a transition year in 2015 before continuing its rise in 2016.
The biggest loser of the top-12 is the Mercedes-Benz CLS, despite the addition of the Shooting Brake version. The trend-sensitive design cause its sales to bounce up quickly when its fresh, but to plunge equally quick when the next year.
The Tesla Model S celebrates its first full year of sales with a total of 8.841 units sold, making it the third-best selling Zero Emission vehicle in the continent, which is rather impressive for such an expensive model. It managed to jump ahead of the BMW 6-series and Audi A7 for the year, thanks to an impressive first half, as the A7 outsold it in Q3 and Q4. A facelift of the 6-series in the beginning of this year should help that model stabilize its decline.
The biggest gainer of the segment is easily the Maserati Ghibli, finishing in the top-10 thanks to sales up 1.150% to 4.238 units, a record for the model, but also for the brand, as the entire Maserati brand has never sold more than 3.300 units in Europe in a single year. And it won’t stop there. Maserati aims to sell 75.000 units worldwide within a few years, and even though China and the US should take the biggest chunk out of that pie, European sales are projected to rise a lot further as well. And the Ghibli is one of the key products in that strategy. Having diesel engines for the first time ever surely helps the model and the brand, although I don’t see the Ghibli improve on its 10th place in 2015.
Considering the fate of excellent cars like the Volvo S80 and Lexus GS, which remain stuck below 1% share of the segment, I don’t have very high hopes for the soon-to-be-launched Hyundai Genesis sedan. It’s surely a better attempt at a luxury vehicle than the Grandeur was a decade ago, but that model topped out at barely 600 units a year, one for every Hyundai dealer as a demo. But at least, the South-Koreans are realistic about the Genesis’ chances in Europe themselves.
Premium large car segment
Tesla Model S
Lancia Thema / Chrysler 300C
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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