Sales of premium large cars are down 1% to 389.184 units in 2015, which makes last year the second-worst year for the segment, after 2009. However, if you consider that the top-4 models, which hold over 80% of segment volume, are due to be replaced in 2016, a decrease of just one percent is actually quite a stable performance. The new generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class has already been revealed and will be the first of the three to arrive in European showrooms. As a result, it is down the most at -15%. It remains to be seen if the design of the new E-Class is going to be a hit or a miss, as it either looks like a shrunk S-Class or a blown-up C-Class. Then again, don’t expect any revolutions from Audi and BMW either, as this is by far the most conservative segment in terms of design. Both will show their new generations of the A6 and 5-series soon and they should be in showrooms in the second half of the year. Considering Audi’s design evolution, it’s not hard to imagine what the new A6 will look like: exactly like the outgoing model with just a few touch-ups to keep it recognizable yet fresh at the same time. Meanwhile, BMW is expected to follow a similar strategy even though the new 5-series will be built on a shortened version of the lightweight platform of the also new 7-series, which means it’ll shed some weight. All three will become available with electrified drivetrains, although no all-electric versions are in the pipeline that we know of.
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These three are in firm control of the segment and have switched places many times. In the past three years alone, each of them has come up on top once. They leave only a market of slightly more than 100.000 units for the rest of the models, from which these three German brands also take a chunk with their “four-door coupes”, so in effect the non-German brands sell fewer than 100.000 large luxury cars combined. While Mercedes-Benz is in third place of the traditional sedans with the E-Class, its CLS manages to outsell both the Audi A7 and BMW 6-series. Funnily enough, in the US these two sets of three German models are ranked exactly oppositely from Europe: The E-Class tops the BMW 5-series while the Audi A6 is far behind, and the 6-series tops the A7 and the Mercedes-Benz CLS. And none of them is the best selling model in this segment across the Atlantic.
As usual, Volvo is best of the rest as the V70 and XC70 manage to improve 6% despite being 8 years old already and about to be replaced with the V90 by the end of 2016. Jaguar has just replaced its XF with a new generation, but wasn’t fully available yet in 2015, so the outgoing generation loses 41% in Q4 and 20% for the full year. As a result, the all-electric Tesla Model S is within 1.300 sales of a top-5 position in the segment, helped by a 72% spike in sales as the model becomes less dependent on just a few markets and starts to gain more widespread acceptance in Europe, although the Mediterranean countries still lag.
The Maserati Ghibli stabilizes after a peak in sales in 2014 and is just 1.000 units from overtaking the Quattroporte as the cumulative best selling Maserati nameplate in Europe. The Volvo S90 will replace the venerable S80 within a few months and should help the Swedish brand consolidate its fourth place in the segment. The Lexus GS has never been able to break through in Europe and is down again, while its Japanese luxury rival Infiniti Q70 benefits from a facelift and the Mercedes diesel engine to almost triple in sales, although it still sells less than half of the GS. We welcome the Hyundai Genesis, which sells 228 units in its first year in Europe, moving ahead of the phased-out Chrysler 300C/Lancia Thema.
Expect the segment to get a boost in volume this year, as the top-5 will all benefit from the new generations arriving in showrooms.
Premium large car segment
Audi A6 / S6 / RS6 / Allroad
Volvo V70 / XC70
Tesla Model S
Audi A7 / S7 / RS7
Lancia Thema / Chrysler 300C
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