After stabilizing at just over 400.000 sales in 2014, European sales of small MPVs are down as the segment is hurt by the thunderous arrival of small crossover models, which offer a similar high seating position, in an equally practical but much more attractive looking package. And considering the top-5 players in this segment now all offer an attractive crossover alternative (counting the Citroën C4 Cactus as one) and all are faced with declining sales, I predict the segment is pretty much doomed. Renault has realized this early by not replacing the Modus small MPV in favor of the Captur small crossover.
The Fiat 500L keeps its lead of the segment thanks virtually flat sales and now commands an almost 25% share of the segment. However, with the arrival of the 500X and its sibling Jeep Renegade in showrooms now, the visibly much less attractive 500L (in my opinion) seems destined to spend the rest of its life cycle in rental car lots, as the utterly hideous 7-seater 500L Living has done since its inception.
In second place we find the Nissan Note, down 17% despite being still relatively fresh but perhaps cannibalized by two other models in the Nissan showroom: customers looking for a higher seating position may also consider the facelifted Juke crossover, while those looking for interior space may be tempted by the all-new Pulsar compact hatchback, which has not much to go for itself but its roomy interior.
The Opel/Vauxhall Meriva is also relatively stable, moving into third place, despite the enormous success of the Mokka crossover, which currently outsells the Meriva with a 3:1 ratio in Europe, besides being also sold successfully as the Buick Encore in China and the US. With limited resources to develop new models and Europe as the single market for a small MPV, General Motors may think twice before starting to work on a next generation of the Meriva.
Sales of the Ford B-Max have been sinking for the past six quarters, so basically since exactly a year after its introduction. Even though the Ford Ecosport small crossover isn’t as successful as the competition in that hotly contested segment in Europe, but its worldwide sales are a multiple of those of the small MPV. Ford’s Romanian plant that builds the B-Max has already been shut down for extended periods and a large percentage of its staff has been made redundant, so a possible withdrawal from the segment seems inevitable for Ford.
The South-Koreans are late to the small-crossover party, and this results in stable (even slightly growing) sales of their small MPV models. But as soon as the brands fill this gaping hole in their line-ups, expect the ix20 and Venga to get the axe quickly. A similar fate awaits the Toyota Verso-S.
Small MPV segment
Citroën C3 Picasso
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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