After a stable 2014 the premium compact car segment continues its double digit growth in 2015, adding 100.000 units or 13% of its volume to reach a record 865.724 sales. The top-3 players from each of the German luxury brands all lose a single percent of their respective volumes, as Audi A3 is the best selling model for the third year in a row and for the 12th time in the past 13 years. However, for the second year in a row, it falls just short of breaking its 2006 record of almost 203.000 sales. Keep in mind, Audi sells its hatchback, sedan and convertible all under the same name, while Mercedes-Benz classifies its CLA sedan (and station wagon) as a separate model from its A-Class hatchback, while BMW names its coupe and convertible the 2-series and the hatchback 1-series. Even if we add all versions for each brand together, the A3 remains the segment leader. Audi doesn’t make an MPV to compete with the BMW 2-series Active Tourer or the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which makes Mercedes-Benz the biggest brand in this segment, with over 261.000 compact cars (+7,4%), but BMW is quickly closing in, improving 54% last year to 243.600 cars.
Note: clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off
The BMW 1-series has been facelifted this year and is able to remain stable despite having increased competition inside its own showroom from the 2-series Active & Gran Tourer. Together with the 2-series coupe & convertible, this is the only rear-wheel drive car in the segment until Alfa Romeo builds a next generation Giulietta on the platform of the Giulia. But that’s far from certain to happen and even if so, it’ll be a few years into the future. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has also been facelifted but stays #3 of the segment.
BMW’s first MPV and first front-wheel drive car has become a huge hit, as they’ve already sold almost 100.000 of the Active Tourer and Gran Tourer since the launch late 2014. The duo has outsold their Mercedes-Benz rival B-Class in their first full year of sales and jumps to a #4 spot of the segment. That leaves the Volvo V40 still in fifth place, despite leapfrogging the B-Class. The smallest Volvo keeps its sales stable as we’ve come to expect from the Swedish brand. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is also stable despite being five years old and having received just a minor facelift. The DS4 is less fortunate although sales were up an impressive 60% in the last two months after it was facelifted to get the new DS grille that was already on the DS5. The BMW i3 EV with optional range extender improves further to outsell the hybrid Lexus CT, pushing the luxury Prius to last place of the surviving models.
There will be an important new entry to the segment this year, as Infiniti is launching the Q30 hatchback alongside the QX30 “crossover”, which are basically the same car with the only differences a jacked-up ride height and some body cladding for the QX. The Japanese brand expects to sell 30.000 of the two models combined in Europe, but I find that very optimistic for a brand that’s still way behind in customer awareness and brand recognition, let alone in the size of its dealer network. We’ll know more right here twelve months from now.
The premium small car segment is up by 10% in 2015 to 287.754 vehicles, but that’s only because the new generation Mini helped the model improve 43% to grab almost half of the segment volume. Each of the other three models have seen their sales decline last year. For the Audi A1 that means it’s been the fifth consecutive year that it sells between 90.000 and 100.000 units, which is impressively stable. If you want to look at it pessimistically, you could say last year has been the model’s worst performance since 2010. Thanks to its minor facelift, the A1 actually showed a 5% increase in Q4 sales, so it may finish 2016 in the same bandwidth again.
The DS3 is about to be facelifted for the second time to receive a similar DS grille as the DS5 and DS4, except that it looks like a badly chopped aftermarket grille on the smallest hatchback of the three-car range. It’s as if DS designers took a good look at all versions of the latest Fiat Punto and thought: “Hey, here’s a good idea: let’s take a perfectly good looking hatchback and then ruin its design with every facelift to end up with an ugly duckling”. Well, maybe that’s a bit overdoing it, but I really have no idea what they were thinking here. This is the trademark example of why slapping on a corporate grille on all your models is a bad idea if it’s done halfway through the lifecycle of a model that hasn’t been designed with that grill in the first place. I’m eagerly awaiting the second generation DS3.
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