The compact premium segment in Europe is stabilizing despite several important models being replaced or renewed. Total segment sales are up just 3% after the first nine months of 2014, but you can see relatively large swings in model popularity. The Audi A3 increases its grip on the segment, improving its share to more than 27% and selling over 50.000 unit more than its nearest competitor, the BMW 1-series.
It’s increasingly more complicated to compare specific models with each other in this segment as some brands use different names for different body styles, while others combine them all in one model. For example, A3 sales include the 3- and 5-door hatchback, convertible and sedan body styles, while Mercedes-Benz separates its A-Class 3-door hatchback from the CLA sedan. BMW separates the 3- and 5-door hatchback versions of the 1-series from the coupe and convertible 2-series, but to complicate matters, sales of the 2-series also include the Active Tourer. This is a front-wheel drive MPV that competes with the Mercedes-Benz B-Class MPV and has almost no technical relationship with the rear-wheel drive coupe and convertible 2-series.
Nevertheless, even taking into account all the different body styles, the A3 is the firm leader of the segment, while Mercedes-Benz keeps the crown in the brand ranking of the segment, despite the fact its three models combined lose share as the CLA isn’t able to offset .
The best “outsider” in the segment remains the Volvo V40, which managed to sell just as many units this quarter as the B-Class thanks to an excellent month of September. The small Volvo takes a 10% segment share and is on track to become the best selling Volvo compact model since 2002.
The all-electric BMW i3 outsold the Lexus CT200h in August and even passed it year-to-date, but the Japanese hybrid struck back with an excellent month of September to defend its ninth place. Supply constraints appear to keep the little BMW from hitting the 10.000 annual sales level this year and from moving up from its current 10th place of the segment. Production of all models behind it has already stopped.
PREMIUM COMPACT CAR
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Sales of the third generation Mini have helped the model outsell the Audi A1 in the third quarter, making it a tight two-horse race to the finish line at the end of this year. I expect the A1 to be too far ahead for the Mini to catch up by the end of December, but 2015 will be a different story. Helped by the addition of a five-door hatchback version and the new generation Clubman in showrooms, the Mini should easily chalk up over 100.000 annual sales and lead the segment again, as it has done before the A1 took over last year.
With the Mini growing in size again and the addition of the larger five-door, there’s room for discussion whether the model should be moved up one segment to be compared with cars like the BMW 1-series. But we’ll leave it as it is as long as sales of the three-door, five-door and Clubman station wagon are combined.
For comparison, the Citroën DS3, which is classified in the non-premium subcompact car segment, sold 43.426 units in the same period, which is a loss of 17%.
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