Sales of premium compact cars Europe are back to their 2015 volume after peaking at almost 940.000 units in 2016. With nearly 874.000 sales in 2017, the segment accounts for 5,6% of the total European car market, down from 6,1% the year before. The average age of the models in this segment is relatively high which explains some of the decline. The top-10 models ranking is exactly the same as 2016 but there have been some individual fluctuations and we have a new leader in the brands ranking. Audi still holds the top spot with the A3, but its 14% loss means a 1,5 percentage point of lost share as its rivals are closing in. The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is pretty stable for a model that will be renewed in 2018 and stays ahead of the BMW 1-series as both models add more than a full percentage point of share. As a result, this top-3 increases its share of the segment to 51% and they are the only nameplates with 6-figure sales. The BMW 2-Series Active and Gran Tourer MPVs are down 15% as they’re being updated early 2018, but at least they remain well ahead of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, whose next generation will also include a 7-seater option. In fifth place, Volvo is best of the rest as usual in the premium segments in Europe, with the V40 pretty stable at -6%.
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The Mercedes-Benz CLA is also pretty stable at -3% but the same can’t be said of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, down 21% as the model is in desparate need of replacement, which is unlikely to happen within the next few years as no plans have been officially announced yet. There are some rumors of a hatchback based on a shortened Giulia rear wheel drive platform, which would be interesting considering BMW is switching from RWD to FWD with the next generation 1-Series. The Mini Clubman is already down in its second full year of sales. Whether that’s because it’s too large for a “Mini” or a result of internal competition from the Countryman crossover, the Clubman hasn’t proven very successful. The big winner in this class is the BMW i3 with a gain of 40% after a 27% gain the year before. This of course means a new annual record for the nameplate which is starting to connect with the mainstream models in terms of sales. The i3 also helps BMW pass Mercedes-Benz in the brands ranking for this segment, with 274.146 sales vs. 272.319 as both are far ahead of Audi which only has the A3. The DS4 loses a third of its volume and is at risk of dropping to 4-figure sales, while the Lexus CT passes the Infiniti Q30, despite being much older. The Q30 is a huge failure for the Infiniti brand, proving how much more difficult it is for non-German brands and newcomers to crack the European luxury car market if you don’t do things drastically different or revolutionary.
As mentioned above, in 2018 we’ll welcome a new generation A-Class, including additional versions under that nameplate, for example a sedan, which may trigger BMW to bring the 1-Series sedan that’s already sold in China to Europe as well. The B-Class will be renewed as well, while BMW will update its MPVs. Volvo will show the next generation V40 but that isn’t likely to hit showrooms until 2019.
The premium small car segment shrank by 9% in 2017, to just over 320.000 sales or 2,1% of the overall European car market, down from 2,3% in 2016. Segment leader Mini (3- and 5-door and convertible), is the only nameplate to grow, although it does so by less than 600 units, which allows it to increase its share of the segment to 42,7%. All four other models lose share as they decline faster than the segment average. After six consecutive years remaining impressively stable at between 90.000 and 100.000 annual sales, the Audi A1 finally shows some weakness, dropping to 84.000 sales, a loss of 13% on the year before. The second generation will hit showrooms this year. The Lancia Ypsilon was down 20% in the fourth quarter which leads to a 9% decline for the year, as the model is officially only available in its home market now (fewer than 300 units were registered outside of Italy in 2017) and is starting to show its age. The DS3 is the biggest loser of the segment, down 28% although its decline slowed down by the end of the year at -7% in Q4. No replacement for the DS3 is announced yet, perhaps the brand will launch a crossover in its place, but even that would be at least a few years away. Finally, the Alfa Romeo MiTo is reaching its expiry date at -40% to just 2.000 sales in the fourth quarter and -12% for the year.
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