Sales of large MPVs in Europe are up a modest 6% after the first 9 months of the year, which could make 2014 the first year since 2007 that the segment has grown year-on-year. After contracting 17% last year, with only 2 out of the 9 models in the segment increasing their sales, the trend seems to have reversed, with 6 out of 9 models gaining ground.
This means the growth of the segment isn’t due exclusively to the sell-out pricing of the Ford S-Max and Galaxy, which are to be replaced next year. The VW-group twins Volkswagen Sharan and Seat Alhambra are the two models that add the most sales, maybe a bit less surprising if you consider they are still the freshest models of the major players in the segment, at four years old.
The Lancia Voyager has been around since 2008, first under the Chrysler brand and since 2011 named Lancia, the Fords were introduced in 2006, the current generation Espace dates back as far as 2003, and the second generation PSA twins started their lifecycle as quadruplets with the Fiat Ulysse and Lancia Phedra in 2002, which have already been discontinued in 2010. Only the SsangYong Rodius is less than four years old, the current generation has been introduced last year, which explains the large relative gains of the model, although it remains a niche player, mostly popular with taxi companies looking for a cheap way to transport 8 people with luggage and not worried about the awkward design.
I expect the large MPV segment has bottomed out for the time being, as new models of the Ford S-Max and Renault Espace already have been introduced to the public and will hit showrooms early 2015, and the Galaxy won’t be far behind. This means total segment sales are likely to rebound next year, although there’s little chance the times of 200.000+ annual sales are behind us indefinitely. There will always remain a demand for 7+ seaters with better fuel economy that four-wheel drive SUVs, but there are enough alternatives in the midsized MPV segment that also offer room for seven in a package that’s easier to park and gets better mileage.
The heavily skewed UK car market, which enjoys its two largest selling months by far in March and Septmeber due to the license-plate changeover, has helped the S-Max outsell the Sharan in September, as did the Galaxy with the Alhambra. Year-to-date, the ranking has remained stable so far, and I expect the Fords to leapfrog their VW-group competitors to finish in first and fourth place next year, with the Espace in second spot behind the S-Max.
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